Earth and Life pp 437-477 | Cite as

Palaeozoic Innovations in the Micro- and Megafossil Plant Record: From the Earliest Plant Spores to the Earliest Seeds

  • Philippe SteemansEmail author
  • Elodie Petus
  • Pierre Breuer
  • Paula Mauller-Mendlowicz
  • Philippe Gerrienne
Part of the International Year of Planet Earth book series (IYPE)


Recently, major advances have been made in understanding terrestrialization processes and the development of early vegetation. This chapter reviews the major steps in the evolution of early land plants, with focii on cryptospores, trilete spores and on the meso- and megafossil remains of Silurian and Devonian plants. The major morphological innovations of plants and their spores are described. Cryptospores are the earliest fossil record of a terrestrial vegetation cover; the oldest indisputable specimens are observed from Darriwilian (mid-Ordovician) strata in Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic. The biological affinities of cryptospores are discussed. It is generally agreed that cryptospores were derived mainly from ‘bryophytes’, but some cryptospores may have arisen from early tracheophytes or their immediate ancestors. The earliest trilete spores are Ordovician in age. Most trilete spores are considered to have tracheophyte affinities; we discuss possible relationships between trilete spores and several cryptospores in dyads or monads. The earliest record of plant mesofossils comes from Middle Silurian strata. The evolution and affinities of the major groups of Late Silurian and Devonian land plants are presented within a phylogenetic and a stratigraphic framework.


Cryptospores Trilete spores Meso-megafossil plants Propagule dispersion Tripapillate forms as biostratigraphic markers Embrophytes Spermatophyte adaptive radiation 



One of us (P.S.) thanks Saudi Aramco for permission to publish pictures of spores from Saudi Arabian samples. The editor of this volume, John Talent, is thanked for inviting us to contribute to this volume and for his careful editing of the chapter. We thank Maurice Streel (University of Liège, Belgium) and Merrell Miller (Aramco, Saudi Arabia) for their constructive remarks. The manuscript has been critically and very constructively reviewed by C. Wellman (Sheffield, UK), J. Marshall (Southampton) and J. Galtier (Montpellier, France). Ruth Mawson, Peter Cockle, Janine Miller and Karen Novotny have also contributed importantly to checking and polishing the English of the manuscript. P. Steemans and P. Gerrienne are FRS-FNRS Research Associates.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Steemans
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elodie Petus
    • 1
  • Pierre Breuer
    • 2
  • Paula Mauller-Mendlowicz
    • 3
  • Philippe Gerrienne
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Liège, Paléobotanique, Paléopalynologie et MicropaléontologieLiège 1Belgium
  2. 2.Geological Technical Services DivisionDhahranSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.Department of De Estratigrafia e paleontologia, FGEL, UERJRio de JaneiroBrasil

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