For more than 150 years Monte San Giorgio has been the subject of paleontological studies. The first excavations were 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 were also started on the Swiss side by the University of Zurich.

The studies were initially focused on the Besano Formation, which became famous after the discovery of marine reptile fossils. Since the 1990s, new and more detailed campaigns were also conducted in younger fossiliferous levels belonging to the Meride Limestone 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.

To date, more than thirty scientific excavations, small and large, have been conducted at various locations on Monte San Giorgio and more than 300 scientific publications have been produced. These investigations have made an extensive contribution to scientific research on Middle Triassic marine vertebrates in Europe, which were previously based on incomplete specimens from contemporaneous sediments of the "Muschelkalk" in Germany, France and Netherlands.