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Palynological evidence of effects of the terminal Cretaceous event on terrestrial floras in western North America

  • Nichols Douglas J. 
  • Fleming R. Farley 
  • Frederiksen Norman O. 
Mesozoic/Cenozoic Events
Part of the Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences book series (LNEARTH, volume 30)

Abstract

New and previously published palynomorph distribution data on 225 taxa from uppermost Cretaceous (K) and lowermost Tertiary (T) nonmarine strata from New Mexico to Arctic Canada and Alaska were used to evaluate the effects of the terminal Cretaceous event (TCE) on terrestrial plant life. Analyses considered presence/absence, relative abundance, species diversity, and endemism, and employed Q-mode cluster analysis. The latest Cretaceous palynoflora showed gradual, continuous variation in composition from paleolatitudes (pl) 45° to 85° N. Palynofloristic subprovinces are not easily distinguished empirically, but three are recognizable quantitatively. Abrupt disappearance of many distinctive species marked the K-T boundary, and the earliest Tertiary palynoflora was considerably reduced in diversity. However, most regionally distributed taxa, and many endemic taxa of the polar and midlatitude subprovinces, survived the TCE and three subprovinces are recognizable in the same geographic positions as in the latest Cretaceous. Relative abundances of pteridophytes and gymnosperms were slightly greater in the early Tertiary than in the latest Cretaceous, probably due in part to change in sedimentary regime, but thermophilic angiosperm taxa persisted at least as far north as pl 60° N. These data support the hypothesis that a short-lived but profound ecological crisis at the end of the Cretaceous resulted in major reorganization of the flora. The data are inconsistent with gradual climatic deterioration. Extinction was greater among angiosperms than among gymnosperms or pteridophytes, but whether or not the entire flora suffered a mass extinction remains debatable.

Keywords

Late Cretaceous Mass Extinction Jaccard Similarity Coefficient Shade Portion Southern Cluster 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nichols Douglas J. 
    • 1
  • Fleming R. Farley 
    • 2
  • Frederiksen Norman O. 
    • 3
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, M.S. 919DenverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyRestonUSA

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