For more than 150 years the Monte San Giorgio is the subject of paleontological studies. The first excavations started in the second half of the nineteenth century on the Italian side of the mountain, by the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano and the Società Italiana di Scienze Naturali. Later, in the first decades of the twentieth century, fossil excavations also started on the Swiss side by the University of Zurich.


The studies were initially focused on the Besano Formation, most famous for the discovery of marine reptiles. Since the 90s of last century, new and more detailed campaigns were also conducted in younger fossil levels belonging to the Meride Formation by the Paläontologisches Institut und Museum der Universität Zürich, the Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra dell’Università di Milano and the Museo cantonale di storia naturale di Lugano.


More than thirty scientific excavations of smaller and larger dimensions were so far conducted in various locations of Monte San Giorgio and more than 300 scientific publications were produced. These investigations have made a decisive contribution to scientific research on the Middle Triassic marine vertebrates in Europe, previously often based on incomplete findings from coeval sediments of the "Muschelkalk" in Germany, France and Netherlands.