A geological treasure hidden among the gullies of Crotone

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The landscape between the centre of Crotone and the promontory of Capocolonna is dominated by a cluster of gullies, running along the entire coastline. Not everybody knows that among those bare gullies there is a true geological treasure waiting to be discovered. The morphological configuration of this location is the product of a series of depositional and erosive episodes in a time span which goes from five million years ago to the present day. There is a place in particular, known as the “Geosite of Vrica”, which is practically unique on the whole planet; a geological site that is known to, and praised by the international scientific community as a stratotype documenting the passage from the Pliocene (a geological period extending from 5,4 to 1,65 million years ago) to the ┬áPleistocene (from 1,65 to 100.000 years ago). While walking on the difficult path which goes through the gullies, the breathtaking view of the sea is not the only thing to enrapture the wayfarer. A keen eye will detect what expert from throughout the world have studied for years, namely the ancient sediments “composed of marly and silty grey-azure clays, very rich in fossils (fossil fish, foraminifera, ostracods etc.), which were deposited there during the Pliocene at a depth of between 400 and 800 metres, and which at lesser depths give way to bio-calcarenites from the Pleistocene (algal nodules, fragments of mollusks and small coral bioformations)”.

The geological record compiled by the International Commission of Stratigraphy explains that Vrica constitutes the “base of the Calabrian plane (dating back to┬áthe Pleistocene period). In 1985, it was defined by the Ics, and ratified by Iugs (the International Union of Geological Sciences), therefore becoming the first Italian geosite to be ratified”, also owing to a “high number of studies of paleontology, biostratigraphy, magnetostratigraphy, geochronometry carried out by an equally high number of scholars”. It has a geological age of 1,8 million years, and its section presents a considerable vertical development, with approximately 306 metres of visible strata (…) and an alternation of sediments ranging from deep-sea clays to sandy strata that are characteristic of depositional shores”. The sediments of the section are rich in fossils: calcareous nannoplankton, planktonic and benthic foraminifera, ostracods, mollusks, pollens and fish. The latter were found in a rather high number, and many specimens were well conserved and belonged to different genera (Cyclothones, Ichtyococcus, Chauliodus, Microichtys)”.

In 1989, with a decree dated November 10, the Ministry for Cultural Assets and Environments restricted three areas, within the precincts of Vrica and Stuni, in accordance with the first article of the Law 1089/39.