The usefulness of Pennsylvanian palynomorphs, spores, and pollen grains, as an aid in coal-correlation investigations in the Appalachians, has been known for many years. However, much of this and subsequent information was scattered in the literature or was not from the proposed stratotype area of West Virginia. Investigation of coals from sections of the proposed Pennsylvanian System stratotype provided the opportunity to examine changes in palynomorph content through a number of coals from the New River Formation to the basal part of the Monongahela Formation.
The rank of most coals of the Pocahontas and New River Formations of West Virginia does not permit extraction of palynomorphs with current laboratory maceration techniques. Because of this, the data of some possibly equivalent lower rank Pennsylvanian coals from adjacent parts of southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky have been included. The coals examined from the Kanawha Formation, Charleston Sandstone, and Monongahela Formations of West Virginia have yielded abundant and well-preserved palynomorphs. Attention has been focused on the Charleston Sandstone, which is a massive, complex unit lacking marine fossils and composed primarily of sandstone. The coal is a significant resource in Pennsylvanian rocks, and the correlation of coals is an important consideration in the area of the stratotype in West Virginia and in adjacent States.
As a result of this preliminary examination, the approximate range zones of some important taxa have been established. These range zones together with abundance data are used to correlate the coals. The range zones of some important taxa from Lower to Upper Pennsylvanian coals are: Densosporites irregularis Hacquebard and Barss, Stenozonotriletes lycosporoides (Butterworth and Williams) Smith and Butterworth, Schulzospora rara Kosanke, Laevigatosporites spp., Radiizonates spp., Torispora securis Balme, Zosterosporites triangularis Kosanke, Thymospora pseudothiessenii (Kosanke) Wilson and Venkatachala, Schopfites dimorphus Kosanke, and Thymospora thiessenii (Kosanke) Wilson and Venkatachala. Some of the range zones are relatively short and extremely useful for correlation studies. For example, in the Charleston Sandstone, T. pseudothiessenii (Kosanke) Wilson and Venkatachala is present in the Upper No.5 Block coal (upper bench) and the No.6 Block coal, whereas Schopfites dimorphus Kosanke is restricted to the No.6 Block coal. Thymospora thiessenii (Kosanke) Wilson and Venkatachala is not restricted to the Pittsburgh No.8 coal, but it is the only coal known in which this taxon is so dominant (more than 70 percent of the palynomorph assemblage).
This preliminary report has provided a framework for the correlation of a selected number of coals occurring in Ohio and eastern Kentucky with those of the proposed Pennsylvanian System stratotype of West Virginia. In other studies, additional samples from the stratotype would be examined for ultimate correlation with rocks of Pennsylvania and in adjacent States and elsewhere.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Palynology of selected coal beds in the proposed Pennsylvanian System stratotype in West Virginia