Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites
National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites World Natural Heritage Nominated Property is located in Guizhou Province, south-western China. The Nominated Property is composed of four components including Panxian Fauna, Xingyi Fauna-Wusha, Xingyi Fauna-Dingxiao and Guanling Biota, covering 82.43 km2 in total with the nominated property and buffer zone of 19.97 km2 and 62.46 km2 respectively.
Area of the component parts of the Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites
Name of Components
Region(s) / District(s)
Area of Nominated Property (ha)
Area of Buffer Zone (ha)
Panzhou City, Liupanshui City, Guizhou Province
Xingyi City, South-western Guizhou Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province
Yilong District, South-western Guizhou Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province
Guanling Buyi and Miao Autonomous County, Anshun City, Guizhou Province
Total Area (ha)
Panxian Fauna (E104 53 57.206 N25 31 36.880)
Panxian Fauna is located in Yangjuan, Xinmin Town, Panzhou City, Liupanshui City, Guizhou Province.
It is featured by the oldest marine vertebrate fauna in Anisian, Middle Triassic.
Xingyi Fauna (E104 46 48.633 N25 10 19.303 and E105 0 46.870 N25 8 56.532)
Xingyi Fauna includes two parts, one is Xingyi Fauna-Wusha in Xingyi City, the other one is Xingyi Fauna-Dingxiao in Dingxiao District. Both components are located in South-western Guizhou Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province. It is mainly featured by unique fauna appeared in late Ladinian, Middle Triassic.
Guanling Biota (E105 25 33.328 N25 53 21.192)
Guanling Biota is located in Guanling Buyi and Miao Autonomous County, Anshun City, Guizhou Province. It is featured by biota composed of large ichthyosaurs and crinoids in Carnian, Late Triassic. The oldest turtle were also found here.
Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites World Heritage Nominated Property is a series of fossil Lägerstattens composed of rich, complete and well preserved early Mesozoic fossils including marine reptiles, fishes, crinoids, ammonoids, bivalves, brachiopods and arthropods, etc. The nominated property is located in the subtropical region. The whole property shows a unique evolutionary sequence, ranging from Panxian Fauna in Anisian of Middle Triassic, to Xingyi Fauna in Ladinian, Middle Triassic and to Guanling Biota in Carnian of Late Triassic, indicating unique paleontological and paleogeography features. Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites World Heritage Nominated Property is an outstanding physical marker of the evolution of the marine life and the ecosystem after the end-Permian Mass Extinction. The fossils are featured with high diversity, rich species, high integrity and exquisite preservation, presenting a complete evolutionary sequence of marine life in the Early Mesozoic age from the dead dreariness after mass extinction to start recovery, radiating, reaching the peak and establishing stable new Mesozoic ecosystem. Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites, featured with special geographical location, are located at the border of two major oceans: Tethys and Panthalassic Ocean in the world, connecting West Tethys Bio-geographic Realm and east Panthalassic Ocean. The above information indicates that Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites Nominated Property is the most important fossil origin place in Middle and Late Triassic for marine life in the world and delivers important scientific research and protection value.
Justification of Outstanding Universal ValueThe Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites Nominated Property is an empirical example of the dead dreariness -restoration-radiation-stability process of the marine life after end-Permian Mass Extinction as well as the origin and early evolution of marine reptiles in the Mesozoic Era. A wealth of fossil specimens were buried under the special sedimentary conditions, a large number of important paleontological fossils were preserved, providing important information on biological evolution. The reptiles recovered and marched into the ocean in the process of biological recovering and the establishment of new ecosystems after the extinction at the end of Permian. Mesozoic marine reptiles appeared, and eventually became the top predators of the ocean with over 70% of the surface area of the Earth. The oldest Placodus, abundant eosauropterygians, primitive Mixosaurus with medium and small sizes found in the Panxian Fauna in early stage, medium body sized Qianichthysaurus and Nothosaur appeared in middle stage, and large-sized ichthyosaurs like Guanlingsaurus, associated with specialized Cyamodus, earliest turtle, etc found in the late stage together with crinoids, ammonoids and bivalves are preserved in the nominated property, fully demonstrating the biotic recovery and ecosystem reconstruction after the mass extinction. The course shows the early evolution of marine reptiles in the Mesozoic Era and synergistic evolution process between the evolution and environment changes in biodiversities and paleogeographic changes.
From the end of the Paleozoic to the end of the Middle Triassic, the Yangtze platform was a stable unit to develop shallow carbonate sediments. In the middle Triassic Anisian Stage, Panxian area was a typical platform and semi-enclosed shallow sea sediments. During the late Middle Triassic to the late Triassic, the collision between the Yangtze plate and the North China plate caused the whole body of former plate to uplift, which was attributable to the Indosinian movement. The main part appeared the famous Latin sea retreat, and regional sedimentary environment of the surrounding area became different. After the middle Late Triassic, the deposition of siliceous turbidite sandstone was quickly filled, and the Yangtze platform ended the deposition of shallow water carbonate. From the Middle Triassic Anisian Stage, Guizhou Panxian fauna representative of the adaptation of shallow coastal platform life, into the late Triassic latitudinal Guizhou Xingyi fauna and the late Triassic Guanling biota tour to the ocean life.
It can be seen from the paleo-biostratigraphic distribution and distribution of ecological niches that quite a few genus species in Thalattosaurians Xinpusaurus, Ichthyosaurus involving the Keihousaurus and Guanlingsaurus, and Sauropterygia including Saurophaganax etc show the affinity of Pangu Biota, while the Thalattosaurus including Xinpusaurus, the Ichthyosaur involving Mixosaurus panxianensis, Sauropterygian involving Placodonts share similar phylogenetic relationships with the taxa from Western Tethys Biota in Europe, indicating that the ancient geographical position of nominated property is the transitional zone of the Pangu Ocean and the Tethys Ocean. The Psephochelys polyosteoderma, Anshunsaurus huangguoshuensis, Lariosaurus xingyiensis and Mixosaurus panxianensis in the property are of related species and show morphological similarity and phylogenetic affinity, which shows that there is certain exchanges of animals between the two biotas. In addition, some fossil specimens found from the Middle Triassic Marine Limestones of Panxian region show similar structural features and phylogenetic relationships with the "Saurosphargis", further demonstrating the similarities of biotas in that region and those in Western Tethys Biota in Europe. On the other hand, many species found in the region show affinities with the Eastern Pacific, such as the Xinpusaurus and the Nectosaurus in North America; Qianqithyosaurus zhoui and Toretocnmus in North America. It can be concluded that transitional zone between the Western Tethys Ocean and the Panthalassic Ocean is special place for paleontological evolution and development. In addition, most marine reptiles are ocean-going swimming types, Keihousaurus and Guanlingsaurus, which are very intactly and exquisitely preserved and in earlier strata, have affinal affinity relationships with Shonisaurus and Shastasaurus in California, North America, and they are probably the ancestor taxa of corresponding taxa in North America. Qianichthyosaurus xingyiensis and Qianichthyosaurus zhoui are the species of ichthyosaurs capable of ocean going, and they appeared and flourished in the upper part of the Xingyi Fauna and the Guanling Biota, indicating that the affinity of paleo-biogeographic attribute toward Xiangpan Biota is converting to be stronger.
The nominated property has a special geographical location, so that it retained many important fossils, such as the Odontochelys semitestacea, Eorhynchochelys sinensis, Qianichthyosaurus zhoui, Sinocyamodus xinpuensis, Keichousaurus hui. There are over 41 marine reptiles found and reported from the nominated property, as well as a large number of crinoids, fishes, ammonites, bivalves and so on. Among them, the first collections of the "National Key Protection List of Fossils of China" included 32 species from this area. National Class I key protection fossils include 27 species, such as Odontochelys semitestacea, Mixosaurus panxianensis, Xinminosaurus, Qianichthyosaurus zhoui, Sinocyamodus xinpuensis, Psephochelys polyosteoderma and so on; National Class II key protection fossils include 2 species, they are Guizhoucoelacanthus guanlingensis, Keichousaurus hui; and the class III key protection fossils include 3 species, which are Sinamia, Birgeria liui, Guizhouamia. There are many endemic species, such as the oldest Placodontia, with the carapace undeveloped; the oldest and most primitive Mixosauridae; strange Dinocephalosaurus orientalis; ferocious Qianosuchus mixtus; and the oldest and most primitive Odontochelys semitestacea.
Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites are outstanding examples of marine evolution in the Triassic period. Its special paleogeographic position and diverse biological types is an excellent example for studying the global geo-biological evolution of the Triassic.
The biota of Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites presents a shallow-marine environment from the Middle Triassic to the Late Triassic (10 million years). The evolution from the Mixosaurus panxianensis that adapted to shallow marine environment to Qianichthyosaurus zhoui with ability to cruise, represents the transform from the Panxian fauna to the Xingyi fauna, and then to the Guanling biota is a transform from living in shallow platform to the ocean, which forms a complete evolutionary sequence, showing the whole process of this evolution event.
Criterion (viii): The Guizhou Triassic fossil Sites are outstanding examples of the evolution of marine life: life-restoration-radiation-stabilization, in the post - Permian era and reflect a turning point between the Mesozoic marine reptiles’ origin and it’s early evolution: from the Middle Triassic Anne Guizhou Panxian fauna representative of the adaptation of shallow coastal platform life, into the late Triassic latitudinal Guizhou Xingyi fauna and the late Triassic Guanling biota tour to the ocean life and constitute an complete evolution sequence. Shastasaurus, Qianichthyosaurs and Pistosaurus which has ocean cruise ability was appeared.
The Guizhou Panxian fossils of Anisian Age of Middle Triassic reflect the end of biological quiet period after mass extinction in Latest Permian. In marine ecosystem, a new ecological system with a four footed animal as the top predator has been appeared. The marine ecosystem has been the emergence of a new ecological system to the top predators quadruped animal, marine reptiles and fish start to radiate and has a higher diversity, ecological differentiation is obvious. Representing the marine reptiles and fish in the climax period of evolution. Triassic Latin fossils of Xingyi in Guizhou represents the end of period of radiation. The fossils of Guanling symbolizes the start of the evolution of the ocean Marine Reptiles in the stable environment and, the exhaustive recovery of biosphere. In summary, the Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites are the most important middle and late Triassic fossil records, which have very important scientific research and protection values and meet the criterion (viii) to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrityGuizhou Triassic Fossil Sites Nominated Property meets the requirements of integrity, protection and management in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. The most representative continuous distribution area is selected in the nominated property, which contains the integrity of life records during the evolution history on earth in Triassic, et al., and has adequate size of area and clear boundaries.
Principles were adopted for determining the boundaries of the Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites World Natural Heritage Nominated Property and its buffer zone to cover:
(1) Areas that include all elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value;
(2) Areas are of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of the features and processes which convey the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and geological relic landscape;
(3) To ensure the integrity of the natural geographical units, the boundary of the nominated property was made consistent with ridges, valleys, piedmont and rivers as much as possible;
(4) Areas with protection property which coincide with or included in existing protected areas;
(5) Areas which avoid human activities that have adverse effects on the heritage values to the greatest extent to remain the naturalness of the nominated property;
(6)The buffer zone is located in the peripheral nominated property and provides buffer and additional protection to the protection and management.
The ancient geography location of Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites Nominated Property is in the junction zone of the Pangu Ocean and the Tethys ocean. Therefore, its biota maintains an affinity which is shared by Pangu biodomain and western Tethys. Furthermore, it is combined with the special burial environment, the Panxian Fauna, Xingyi Fauna and Guanling Biota outcrop Middle Triassic shallow sea, Middle/Late Triassic shallow deep sea marine animal fossils respectively, which guarantees the integrity of the biota in the environment evolution process from Middle Triassic neritic ecological environment to Late Triassic (10 Ma) relative deep sea.
The clear boundary of the nominated property covers the regions’ paleontological fossils reservoir, which contains the Triassic halobios fossils appeared in 245 to 235 Ma BP. With a special geological structure background, Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites Nominated Property provides quite a favorable buried environment for many important paleontological fossils. More than 41 species of Marine reptiles were found and reported, among them, the national key protection paleontological fossil record accepts 32 species in the first batch, which contains 27 species of the class I, 2 species of the class II, and 3 species of the class III. What’s more, there are many endemic species. This possesses the nomination a large enough area and adequate biological variety, and then guarantees the integrity of biological species and their burial environment.
According to the limited environmental capacity, the integrity of the fossil, species diversity of the Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites Nominated Property are all faced with some pressure due to the influence of various forms of natural factors and human activities. However, the nominated property, as a national geological park with a good protection, has certain protective designations. In addition, the state and local governments and departments are continuing to take relevant measures, for example, setting up visit supervision mechanism, resolutely implement capacity control, carrying out community monitoring of the impact of tourism development, supervising the development of tourism projects, Strengthening the participation and management of local residents, giving priority to local residents to participate in the geological tourism development, construction, operation, management and paleontological resources protection so that they can benefit from the geological tourism development, et al. More feasible measures like these to solve the above existing problems can make the nominated fossil storage environment better.
Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites World Natural Heritage Nominated Property has national protective designations. Panxian Fauna, Xingyi Fauna-Wusha, Xingyi Fauna-Dingxiao and Guanling Biota were approved as national geological parks by the State Council in 2005, 2004, 2004 and 2004 respectively. Because of being long-term protected by the following national and local relevant laws and regulations, including the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China, the Forestry Law of the People's Republic of China, the Water Act of the People's Republic of China, the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Scenic Areas, the Ancient Fossils Protection Ordinance, the Regulations on Protection of Geological Remains, the Regulations on Scenic Area in Guizhou, the Measures for the Management of Scenic Areas in Guizhou, et al. The nominated property owns enough and guaranteed funds.
Effective management framework has been set up by Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites World Natural Heritage Nominated Property. The management organization of the parks belongs to the Bureau of Forestry in the Department of Natural Resources of Guizhou Province. On site management belongs to Land Resources Bureau of Liupanshui City and Administration of Liupanshui Wumengshan National Geological Park, Land Resources Bureau of Xingyi City and Administration of Guizhou Xingyi National Geological Park and Land Resources Bureau of Guanling County and Administration of Guizhou Guanling Biota National Geological Park. They are national institutions, combined by management and scientific research ability, which are responsible for the management of natural resources such as all ancient monuments in the protection zones. Meanwhile, in accordance with the provisions, it receives supports from the units and individuals both at home and abroad, who plans to start investigation research and teaching practice. The management system of the nominated property is relatively comprehensive, and the administration layout is relatively reasonable, basically forms an orderly and efficient operated management system, a two-level system is combined with bureau and administration office. The nominated property continuously improves its internal management organization setup, so that each department takes their responsibilities, cooperates with each other and administrates jointly, to make the protection and management work progress in an orderly way.
Overall planning has been finished in the nominated property, such as the Master Plan of Liupanshui Wumengshan National Geological Park (2011-2025), Master Plan of the Guizhou Xingyi National Geological Park (2013-2025), Master Plan of the Guizhou Guanling Fossil National Geological Park (2013-2023), all of which lay a foundation for the protection, management and sustainable utilization of the nomination.
National and local relevant laws, administrative regulations, planning et al. put forward the countermeasures and action plans for nomination which are aimed at the value and challenges respectively, setting up the overall management framework for more targeted protection of the nomination’s potential outstanding universal value, and aimed at the challenges caused by the protection of complete evolution serial process, protection of fossil diversity and sustainable development of tourism industry of Guizhou Triassic fossil world natural heritage nomination, as well as the threats of potential outstanding universal value of the nominated property due to the conservation of nature and community economic development contradictions, which put forward some practical measures, such as improving the enthusiasm of community participation and protection consciousness of people through environmental monitoring, the nomination and population controlling in its buffer zones, legal constraints strengthening, propaganda and education. Nice results have been achieved. Therefore it ensures that potential outstanding universal value and integrity of Guizhou Triassic Fossil Sites World Natural Heritage Nominated Property are well protected and preserved.
Daily management organizations in the nominated Property has been established which have enough managers, and has special management planning, guaranteed management funding sources, measures of protection monitoring indicators and implementation of protection, therefore naturalness and integrity are effectively protected, and "Outstanding Universal Value" is effectively maintained.
Comparison with other similar propertiesFossils, oryctocoenosis, fossil sequences, strata and fossil sites are considerably important for the study of composition of biodiversity, characteristics of early evolution, palaeogeographical distribution, global comparison and paleogeographic migration. In South China, the Panxian - Luoping Fauna (Anisian Pelsonian, Middle Triassic), the Xingyi Fauna (Late Ladinian, Middle Triassic) and the Guanling Biota (Carnian, Late Triassic) are significant rich in abundant well-preserved fossils. The various fossils, the rich fossil sites and the widely distributing fossil-bearing strata form an approximately integral longitudinal evolution sequence.
1. Comparison with similar sites on the World Natural Heritage List
Switzerland - Italy Monte San George Fauna has been inscribed as a World Natural Heritage Site. However, in terms of the fossil-bearing strata and the biological evolution sequence, Guizhou Triassic Vertebrate Fossil Groups is much more integral than the Monte San George Fauna. The Monte San Giorgio Fauna reflects an intermediate stage of marine reptile evolution, the appearance of marine reptiles during the Middle Triassic. While the Triassic fossil faunas in Guizhou reflect the evolutionary history of marine reptiles as well as fishes and other animals, forming a complete evolutionary chain, and more importantly, reflecting the crucial events of the evolutionary history of the marine reptiles from nearshore to offshore. Furthermore, from the paleogeographic perspective, the Triassic San Giorgio fauna reflects the typical characteristics of the Cite Tethys biological region, while the Guizhou Triassic marine vertebrate fossils are linked not only to the Cetes but also to Pangu Ocean, reflecting its joint position in the two oceans.
2. Comparison with similar non World Heritage sites and other important fossil sites
The Spitsbergen Fauna is located in Spitsbergen, Norway, Europe, which consists of three fossil-bearing strata: the lowest one is the Grippia (Orennikian); the upper one (Orenic) and the highest layer both contain fossils of marine reptiles and the (Anne). A lack of biodiversity and the incomplete fossil materials founded in the early Triassic fauna result in that the taxonomic positions of many groups are still unclear. And, as the Spitsbergen Fauna locates near the Arctic Circle, it is arduous for researchers to carry out research. As a result, the middle Triassic fossil strata are still uncovered. In contrast, the fossil-bearing strata located in Guizhou are well exposed and the age of the strata has been intensely studied by means of biostratigraphic correlation and isotopic dating. Thus, fossil faunas in Guizhou are superior to the Spitsbergen fauna, in terms of biodiversity and completion of fossil materials as well as the research status of strata.
The Utatsusaurus Fauna is found from the Osawa Formation (Olenekian), the Subcolombites zone (Shikama et al., 1978) of Miyagi, Japan. However, up to now, there is merely one species of fossil reptiles founded (Utatsusaurus hataii), indicating a lack of biodiversity and complete sequence, thus cannot be compared with other Triassic marine faunas. In 2011, the tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake affected Miyagi Prefecture, causing great difficulties for further study in the region. As the fossil fauna near the Arctic Circle, it is difficult for researchers to carry out in-depth study. By contrast, the well-preserved marine vertebrate fossils of the Triassic in Guizhou are of large number and crucial diversity. They provide unique conditions for the study of fossil fauna, biodiversity and early evolution.
The exposure strata of the British Columbia Fauna is mostly Lower Triassic - Middle Triassic. In this fauna, the biodiversity is low with bad-preserved fossil materials, which result in the low level of recognition. Some of the famous taxa are the thalattosaurians: Paralonectes, Agkistrognathus, and Thalattosaurus. In Guizhou, China, the thalattosaurs, Anshunsaurus and Xinpusaurus, are found from the Middle Triassic Xingyi Fauna and Upper Triassic Guanling Fauna. They have a combination of the characteristics of the Tethys type and the Pacific types, which is connected with the paleogeography of the Southwestern China. The South China block was located between the Tethys and the Paleopacific Ocean.
The Nevada Fauna, North America, was found from the Anisian, Middle Triassic. The Augustasaurus (Sauropterygia, pistosauridae), together with some other marine reptiles, is found from this fauna. But the fossil materials here are incomplete and bad-preserved, with a low biodiversity. Also the Triassic sequence is not a serial, so that it is unable to study the evolution of the marine reptiles in this area. The Nevada Fauna belongs to the East Pacific Biota, and the marine reptiles and the stratigraphic sequence are also found in Panxian Fauna and Xingyi Fauna, which could make the comparative study possible.
The California Fauna is found from the Upper Triassic of California State, America. This fauna is famous for the large ichthyosaurs, Shastasauridae, which was first found from the Shasta County, dating to the middle Norian age, containing some vertebrae and a pubis. These materials were studied by Merriam (1895), named Shastasaurus pacificus, and the name of this genus is form the first fossil site. But the marine reptiles here is rare with low biodiversity. In Guizhou, there are some well-preserved and complete Shastasauridae materials, which enable the study of the genetic relationships of this taxon and the paleogeographic migration.
Compared with similar palaeontology sites, the Triassic fossils in Guizhou are representative of the evolution of marine life: life-restoration-radiation-stabilization, in the post - Permian era and reflect a turning point between the Mesozoic marine reptiles’ origin and it’s early evolution: From the Middle Triassic Anne Guizhou Panxian fauna representative of the adaptation of shallow coastal platform life, into the late Triassic latitudinal Guizhou Xingyi fauna and the late Triassic Guanling biota tour to the ocean life and constitute an complete evolution sequence. Shastasaurus, Qianichthyosaurs and Pistosaurus which has ocean cruise ability was appeared.The Guizhou Panxian fauna of Anisian Age of Middle Triassic reflect the end of biological quiet period after mass extinction in Latest Permian. In marine ecosystem, a new ecological system with a four footed animal as the top predator has been appeared. The marine ecosystem has been the emergence of a new ecological system to the top predators quadruped animal, marine reptiles and fish start to radiate and has a higher diversity, ecological differentiation is obvious. Representing the marine reptiles and fish in the climax period of evolution. Triassic Latin fossils of Xingyi in Guizhou represents the end of period of radiation. The fossils of Guanling symbolizes the start of the evolution of the ocean Marine Reptiles in the stable environment and, the exhaustive recovery of biosphere. Therefore, in terms of scientific significance, preservation of fossils and biodiversity, the Triassic marine vertebrate fossils of Guizhou are extremely unique. They are considerably outstanding examples of the early evolution of marine reptiles in the early Mesozoic Era.