Aromatized arborane/fernane hydrocarbons as biomarkers for cordaites.Naturwissenschaften. 2006 Dec; 93(12):616-21.N
Previous palaeobotanical and palynological studies on coals from Euramerican Pennsylvanian (identical with Late Carboniferous) coal basins indicate a major change in coal-swamp floras, especially at the Westphalian-Stephanian (approximately Kasimovian-Gzhelian, according to Geological Time Scale 2004) boundary. A flora dominated by arborescent lycophytes was replaced by a vegetation dominated by marattialean tree ferns in various Euramerican coal basins. Earlier combined palynological and organic geochemical studies on Westphalian/Stephanian coals and shales from the Saar-Nahe Basin (Germany) revealed that the distribution of aromatized arborane/fernane hydrocarbons in solvent extracts reflects the increasing importance of seed plants, especially cordaites (extinct group of gymnosperms), conifers and pteridosperms. However, the biological source of the precursor molecules could not be specified. To clarify if the arborane/fernane derivatives MATH, MAPH, DAPH 1, and DAPH 2 in Westphalian/Stephanian coals can be assigned to one of the three potential source plant groups, we analyzed coals, sediments and fossil plant remains from different Euramerican locations with respect to their biomarker composition and stable carbon isotopic composition. Thereby, stable carbon isotopic ratios showed only insignificant variations between Westphalian and Stephanian samples and proved to be an unsuitable tool to describe floral changes during the Westphalian/Stephanian of the Saar-Nahe Basin. In contrast, we were able to show for the first time that MATH, MAPH, DAPH 1 and DAPH 2 are prominent constituents only in extracts of cordaitean macrofossils and can therefore be regarded as biomarkers for this group of gymnosperms.