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A Conspectus of Phytotaphonomy

  • Robert A. Gastaldo (a1)

The fossil record of plants principally results from individuals, variously sampled from one or more communities, that generally are associated with a depositional site. The processes responsible for the transfer of plant parts from the biosphere to the lithosphere may be biotic (e.g. physiological, animal herbivory, etc.) or abiotic (e.g. traumatic loss by wind and/or water; Krassilov, 1975) in nature. The factors ultimately responsible for the preservation of these plant parts are sedimentological and geochemical. The goals of the subdiscipline of Taphonomy, the study of processes of preservation and how they affect information in the fossil record (Behrensmeyer and Kidwell, 1985), are to understand fossilization through necrology, biostratinomy, and diagenesis (Figure 1). The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of taphonomic factors responsible for the generation and preservation of plant macrodetritus. It is not meant to be an exhaustive dissertation or definitive discussion on phytotaphonomy.

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