Late Pennsylvanian climate changes and palynomorph extinctions

Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology




A major floral change occurs in the Upper Pennsylvanian strata in the Midcontinent, Illinois basin, and in the northern Appalachian basin of eastern United States. Lycospora spp. (derived from arborescent lycopsids) became extinct along with some other palynomorph taxa. This investigation is concerned with the importance of this major floral change. Samples were studied from western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and West Virginia (from a previous study) cover the stratigraphic interval from the Upper Freeport coal bed, uppermost part of the Allegheny Formation, to the Mahoning, Mason, Brush Creek, Wilgus, and Anderson coal beds in the lower part of the Conemaugh Formation. The floral change occurs either at or below the accepted Desmoinesian-Missourian boundary in the Midcontinent and Illinois basin, whereas in the northern Appalachians this change occurs in the lower part of the Conemaugh Formation, between the Mahoning and Brush Creek coal beds, or when the Mason is present, between the Mahoning and Mason coal beds. With the advent of late Middle Pennsylvanian time, the climate began to change from wet tropical to seasonal tropical. The Middle-Upper Pennsylvanian boundary is the culmination of this drying trend, which was marked by reduction of available water. The peat swamps are interpreted as having changed from the domed type of bog to the planar type under these circumstances. Thus, in general, the coals of the Conemaugh Formation are characteristically much thinner than those of the Allegheny Formation. This was caused by a number of factors including reduced or more seasonal rainfall, decline of arborescent lycopsids, and the increased dominance of herbaceous and fern plants. As a result, there are fewer minable coal beds in the Conemaugh Formation. The first coal bed above the extinction of Lycospora spp. is dominated by the palynomorph taxon Endosporites globiformis which is derived from a heterosporous, herbaceous lycopsid. However, Sigillaria, another arborescent lycopsid, did not become extinct at this time as evidenced by the presence of the palynomorph genus Crassispora which is derived from Sigillaria. The reason for the survival of Sigillaria is not known, but it may have been able to adapt, in a limited fashion, to some sort of specialized microenvironment. The ferns, based on palynomorph occurrence, become numerically more important throughout the balance of the Conemaugh Formation, and dominate the Pittsburgh No. 8 and Pomeroy coal beds in the overlying Monogahela Formation.

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Late Pennsylvanian climate changes and palynomorph extinctions
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Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology
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Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology
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