Abstract

The pre-Permian record of bryophytes is restricted to a very limited number of liverwort occurrences in Middle and Late Devonian and in Pennsylvanian strata, and a putative liverwort from the Middle Ordovician. The paucity of bryophytes, notably the apparent absence of mosses in the Carboniferous, is striking because this time interval is marked by the occurrence of extensive wetland environments that likely provided ideal habitats. We report three types of mosses from the Mississippian of eastern Germany that are the oldest unequivocal mosses known to date. Although the material is fragmentary, these finds show that mosses formed part of Carboniferous ecosystems. The moss remains were obtained by bulk maceration, a method that is not commonly used for studying Carboniferous floras. We anticipate that applying this method on material from other Carboniferous localities will show that mosses were more widespread in the late Paleozoic than previously thought.

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