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The 330–320 Million-Year-Old Tranchée des Malécots (Chaudefonds-sur-Layon, South of the Armorican Massif, France): a Rare Geoheritage Site Containing In Situ Palaeobotanical Remains


A disused quarry in the southern part of the Amorican Massif (northwestern France) known locally as the ‘Tranchée des Malécots’ lies within the ‘Corniche Angevine’ located on the western edge of the ‘Val de Loire’ UNESCO World Heritage Site. This quarry exposes Serpukhovian-age (330–320 Ma) volcanic ashes containing in situ remains of arborescent lycopsids and is one of the few places in the world where very early coal swamp plants can be seen in their original place of growth. Because the geology and palaeobotany here relate to coal mining, which historically underpinned the economic development of the area, the site is of considerable local cultural interest. The site was first described in the early 1930s, and its reinvestigation has shown occurrences of lycopsid remains identified as stems and branches of Lepidodendron veltheimii and Lepidodendron cf. nathorstii, slender axes with lateral branches of uncertain affinities, Cyperites bicarinatus leaves and Stigmaria ficoides rhizophores. A pictorial reconstruction of the trees is presented. Since the first description of the site, a combination of natural erosion and human damage has meant that fewer of the trees are now visible. In 2016, we used photogrammetry to develop a digital representation of the site and its fossil remains to help in the development of a long-term geoconservation strategy. Modern vegetation had recently been removed from the outcrop showing more stems, but other remains have disappeared. This highlights the value of photogrammetry to allow continued knowledge and preservation of this internationally important example of geoheritage.

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This is a contribution to CS-D’s project ‘Reinvestigation of the Pays de la Loire Coalfield flora’. CS-D acknowledges funding from the Mécènes et Loire Fondation and Terra Botanica, Angers (France). The authors thank the Communauté de Communes Loire-Layon and the Chaudefonds-sur-Layon municipality who allowed them to work on the site and to organise the visit of the site during the ‘Journées de rencontre autour du patrimoine minier de la Corniche angevine’. They thank the Palaeontological Association who supported this meeting with a grant (PA-GA201803). Prof. Hubert Lardeux and Mr Patrick Baudouin are acknowledged for permission to use their photos. Thanks are also given to Mrs Hélène Poncet-Laverdure who provided information about geoconservation and public use of the site and to Dr Fabrice Redois and Mr Christophe Noblet for interesting discussions about the site.


CS-D was supported by the Mécènes et Loire Fondation and Terra Botanica, Angers (France).

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Conceptualisation of the work was by CS-D; ARTS was responsible for the photogrammetry and digital reconstruction; CJC described the fossil flora; VOL produced the pictorial reconstruction; the rest of the paper includes contributions from all four authors.

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Correspondence to Christine Strullu-Derrien.

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Strullu-Derrien, C., Spencer, A.R.T., Cleal, C.J. et al. The 330–320 Million-Year-Old Tranchée des Malécots (Chaudefonds-sur-Layon, South of the Armorican Massif, France): a Rare Geoheritage Site Containing In Situ Palaeobotanical Remains. Geoheritage 14, 42 (2022).

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  • Lycopsid tree
  • Carboniferous
  • Coalfields
  • Photogrammetry