Paleontological Museum
“Le radici della vita”

This small museum opens a window into several areas of outstanding scientific and educational interest in the area of Danta and Comelico. The museum occupies in a single open space, which, though small, has a surprising variety of objects and artifacts which tell parts of the story of evolution of life on earth from its origins to the arrival of humans. The museum’s paleontological roots are evident in the collection fossils on display from around the world that are testimony to the appearance of early forms of life on earth. Of particular interest is the museum’s connection with the nearby peat bogs of Danta, an EU Natura 2000 site of significant importance to the ecology of the Alps. A display at the museum is dedicated to the site. Of related importance is the preserved organic material on display recently unearthed from a similar peat bog in Denmark.

The museum is organized in a single large room, such that visitors are free to choose their own route through the exhibits on display. Exhibits near the entrance pertain to the structure of the earth, illustrating the theory of plate tectonics and continental drift. The local geology is illustrated with the help of samples of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, all originating in Comelico. The oldest rocks of the region on display, the crystalline basement rock (460 million years ago) over which Danta can be found, along with related rocky substrates, were formed during volcanic activity of the Early Permian. A geological map of Veneto illustrates the geological variety and complexity of the area, characterized by consistent tectonics and geodynamics. These are geological characteristics of interest in Comelico and more broadly in the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The richness of the museum collections is augmented by numerous fossil specimens from the collection of Bruno Berti, member of the Gruppo Paleontological della Società Veneziana di Scienze Naturali, and of the Centro Studi Ricerche Ligabue of Venice. An exhibit introduces fundamental concepts in the study of the formation of fossils, noting that each layer of rock is like the page of a book, while at the centre of the room is a fossil of very high scientific and aesthetic value: a baby dinosaur found in Mongolia (genus Psittacosaurus). This fossil has been placed beside a specimen of Dyrosaurus phosphaticus, a marine reptile extinct 40 million years ago, and ancestor of the modern crocodile. Other fossil specimens of note include some well preserved trilobites, including a well preserved sample of Dicranurus monstruosus (400 million years ago), stromatolites (sedimentary structures formed by photosynthetic microorganisms, for example cyanobacteria) -- the first fossil records of life on earth, some dating to the Pre-Cambrian (3.5-1 billion years ago), and samples of much more recently active animals such as the skeletal remains of a cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) which lived from 300,000-10,000 years ago.
The fossilized traces left by atmospheric agents and by the action and movements of other forms of life constitute another particularity of the museum. Specimens of this type include fossilized dinosaur footprints and fossilized traces left by wave action (280 million years before present). In this section, visitors can see the fossilized footprints of a Dimetrodon, a reptile of the early Permian found in New Mexico. Fossil specimens of aquatic species on display include the remains of a Pterygotus, a water scorpion of the Paleozoic Era (Silurian and Devonian Periods), which, at up to three meters of length, was the largest arthropod that ever existed. Numerous fossils of marine insects and a very rare imprint of a delicate jellyfish of the Miocene are featured in addition to specimens of insects preserved intact in fossilized amber. The small section dedicated to human history is comprised of a display case with instruments made of flint and worked metal.
Specimens of a more recent origin and composed of organic material from a Holocene peat bog in Denmark relate to the display case and related panels on the peat bogs of Danta. The display describes the origins of the bogs, their distribution, and the conservation state of rare plant species that characterize this threatened ecosystem. The peat bogs of Danta are also of high research value in terms of reconstruction of paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental conditions in the Alps.

Le torbiere di Danta

Duration: 2h
Location/map: The itineraries are illustrated on the following website

Description of itinerary: Together with the wetlands of Coltorondo in Comelico, the peat bogs of Danta constitute a biotope of particular natural significance in Veneto and distinctive in the Alps for the diversity and rarity of plant species found therein. For these reasons, the peat bogs of Danta received the designation of Site of Community Importance (SCI IT 320060 “Danta Peat Bogs”) and are included in the Special Protection Area (SPA IT 3230089 “Cadore and Comelico Dolomites”) as protected areas of the Natura 2000 network. This protected areas network conserves of priority habitats in the European Union.
Walking itineraries through the bogs have been designed for all levels and ages, thanks to wide trails and modest elevation changes. The trail network guides visitors through the most significant ecotypes of the area (if desired, with the help of an audio guide). The evolution of the bogs is the result of local hydrological conditions, combined with the geology of the underlying rocky substrate that is of Paleozoic and Early Triassic origins -- the oldest rocks that can be found in the Danta area. This geology has been generally covered by alluvial and moraine deposits formed during the Quaternary, englobed in a clay matrix, rendering the deposits impermeable to water. This structure has absorbed and retains water, favouring the formation of bogs over time. The Danta area is distinguished in Comelico for its below ground hydrographical complexity and for the richness of stagnant and slow-moving water that consents to processes of bog formation and the variety of species associated with these ecotypes, including carnivorous plants, a diversity of insects, amphibians, and birds.
The Life Natura project, “Danta 2004”, valorizes four peat bog sites of particular importance situated near Val di Ciampo, Cercena', Palu' Mauria, and Palu' Longo. Along the walking itinerary which passes through these areas, it is also possible to observe technical interventions carried out to reduce erosion of the watercourse and to avoid excessive drainage of the bog.

Season recommended: April-November

Paleontological Museum “Le radici della vita”



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