History of paleontology at the Florissant fossil beds, Colorado
History of paleontology at the Florissant fossil beds, Colorado (in Paleontology of the upper Eocene Florissant Formation, Colorado, Herbert W. Meyer (editor) and Dena M. Smith (editor))
Special Paper - Geological Society of America (2008) 435: 1-18
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
- Florissant Lake Beds
- fossil localities
- national monuments
- public lands
- Teller County Colorado
- United States
- upper Eocene
- Lesquereux, Leo
- Scudder, Samuel H.
- MacGinitie, Harry D.
- Cockerell, Theodore Dru Allison
Paleontological studies at Florissant have been ongoing for more than 13 decades. As the focus of these studies has shifted through this time, the site has provided important insights into the evolution of paleontology as a science from its beginnings in the nineteenth century through its subsequent development. Early studies focused on the description of new taxa from collections that were being made by the early scientific surveys of the American West, particularly the Hayden Survey during the early 1870s and an expedition from Princeton in 1877. The first studies and descriptions of these fossils were by Leo Lesquereux on the fossil plants, S. H. Scudder on the fossil insects, and E. D. Cope on the fossil vertebrates. At the beginning of the twentieth century, T. D. A. Cockerell conducted field expeditions in 1906-1908, and subsequently published -130 papers on fossil plants, insects, and mollusks. Work by these early researchers was the first to consider the implications of the Florissant fossils for evolution, extinction, biogeography, and paleoclimate. Even greater emphasis on these broader implications began when H. D. MacGinitie made excavations during 1936-1937 and published a comprehensive monograph on the fossil flora in 1953, including numerous taxonomic revisions and detailed interpretations of stratigraphic context, paleoecology, paleoclimate, paleoelevation, biogeography, and taphonomy. Other workers during the late 1900s initiated the first studies on pollen, dicotyledonous woods, and multiple organ reconstructions of extinct plant genera, and developed more quantified methods for determining paleoelevation and paleoclimate. Current work emphasizes plant-insect interactions, the use of diatoms as fresh-water paleoenvironmental indicators and as agents in macrofossil taphonomy, and the use of insects as terrestrial environmental indicators.