Spatiotemporal relationships among Late Pennsylvanian plant assemblages: Palynological evidence from the Markley Formation, West Texas, U.S.A.Rev Palaeobot Palynol. 2014 Dec 01; 211:10-27.RP
The Pennsylvanian lowlands of western Pangea are best known for their diverse wetland floras of arborescent and herbaceous ferns, and arborescent horsetails and clubmosses. In apparent juxtaposition, a very different kind of flora, dominated by a xerophilous assemblage of conifers, taeniopterids and peltasperms, is occasionally glimpsed. Once believed to represent upland or extrabasinal floras from well-drained portions of the landscape, these dryland floras more recently have been interpreted as lowland assemblages growing during drier phases of glacial/interglacial cycles. Whether Pennsylvanian dryland and wetland floras were separated spatially or temporally remains an unsettled question, due in large part to taphonomic bias toward preservation of wetland plants. Previous paleobotanical and sedimentological analysis of the Markley Formation of latest Pennsylvanian (Gzhelian) age, from north central Texas, U.S.A, indicates close correlation between lithofacies and distinct dryland and wetland megaflora assemblages. Here we present a detailed analysis one of those localities, a section unusual in containing abundant palynomorphs, from the lower Markley Formation. Paleobotanical, palynological and lithological data from a section thought to represent a single interglacial/glacial phase are integrated and analyzed to create a complex picture of an evolving landscape. Megafloral data from throughout the Markley Formation show that conifer-dominated dryland floras occur exclusively in highly leached kaolinite beds, likely eroded from underlying soils, whereas a mosaic of wetland floras occupy histosols, ultisols, and fluvial overbank deposits. Palynological data largely conform to this pattern but reveal a more complex picture. An assemblage of mixed wetland and dryland palynofloral taxa is interpolated between a dryland assemblage and an overlying histosol containing wetland taxa. In this section, as well as elsewhere in the Markley Formation, kaolinite and overlying organic beds appear to have formed as a single genetic unit, with the kaolinite forming an impermeable aquiclude upon which a poorly drained wetland subsequently formed. Within a single inferred glacial/interglacial cycle, lithological data indicate significant fluctuations in water availability tracked by changes in palynofloral and megafloral taxa. Palynology reveals that elements of the dryland floras appear at low abundance even within wetland deposits. The combined data indicate a complex pattern of succession and suggest a mosaic of dryland and wetland plant communities in the Late Pennsylvanian. Our data alone cannot show whether dryland and wetland assemblages succeed one another temporally, or coexisted on the landscape. However, the combined evidence suggests relatively close spatial proximity within a fragmenting and increasingly arid environment.