Abstract

The palynological Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary is recognized in the northern part of the Western Interior by the abrupt disappearance of a few characteristic Cretaceous pollen genera, principally Proteacidites and Aquilapollenites. In the southern part, the boundary is recognized by the disappearance of a somewhat different group of pollen: Proteacidites, “Tiliawodehousei, and Trisectoris. The abrupt change in both regions takes place precisely at the stratigraphic horizon at which boundary clay layers containing anomalously high concentrations of iridium (interpreted to be the result of an asteroid impact) are found. Although some characteristic Cretaceous taxa apparently became extinct, others were minimally affected by this boundary event and reappear in strata above. However, all the principal Cretaceous pollen genera (though not species) that disappear regionally have been reported from Tertiary rocks in other parts of North America. Differential apparent extinction and/or survival reflects a pronounced temporary disruption of plant life immediately after the event. Some Cretaceous plants must have persisted in refugia to have provided the propagules for the rapid recovery of the flora. No massive total extinction of plant genera at the end of the Cretaceous can be seen from the palynologic record.

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