Taphonomic and sedimentologic characterization of roof-shale floras
Robert A. Gastaldo, Hermann W. Pfefferkorn, William A. DiMichele, 1995. "Taphonomic and sedimentologic characterization of roof-shale floras", Historical Perspective of Early Twentieth Century Carboniferous Paleobotany in North America, Paul C. Lyons, Elsie Darrah Morey, Robert H. Wagner
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Roof-shale floras have been a major source of data for the understanding of Carboniferous vegetation. Early debate on their origin centered around the question of whether these megafloral assemblages are autochthonous or allochthonous. In these discussions, the sedimentological context in which the preserved fossil assemblage (taphoflora) occurred was largely ignored. W. C. Darrah saw the complexity of these issues, presented helpful starting points for further investigations, and influenced the thinking of the next generation. This chapter characterizes the sedimentological and taphonomic features of a spectrum of roof-shale floras. There are three levels at which the preservation of plant parts can be viewed: (1) early taphonomic processes and earliest diagenesis can destroy or preserve plant parts in a given clastic depositional setting; (2) those plant parts that are preserved can be autochthonous, parautochthonous, or allochthonous in relationship to their original place of growth; (3) with respect to a peat layer (coal bed), the overlying clastic material can be deposited in a continuous transition, after a short temporal break (discontinuity), or after a significant hiatus of time. Characterization of roof-shale floras must take into consideration the sedimentological interpretation of the associated lithologies, the stratigraphic sequence, and the taphonomic processes involved in their formation. Characterization is essential before such floras can be used in higher-level interpretations, such as paleoecological reconstructions.