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The Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is characterized by pronounced global warming and associated environmental changes. In the more-or-less two decades since prior regional syntheses of Apectodinium distribution at the PETM, extensive biological and geochemical datasets have elucidated the effect of rising world temperatures on climate and the biome. A Carbon Isotope Excursion (CIE) that marks the Paleocene/Eocene Boundary is associated with an acme of marine dinocysts of the genus Apectodinium in many locations. Distinctive foraminiferal and calcareous nannofossil populations may also be present.

For this updated, dinocyst-oriented view of the PETM, data from worldwide locations have been evaluated with an emphasis on stratigraphic and sedimentological context. What has emerged is that a change in lithology is common, often to a distinctive siltstone or claystone unit, which contrasts with underlying and overlying lithotypes. This change, present in shallow marine/coastal settings and in deep-water turbidite deposits, is attributed to radical modifications of precipitation and erosional processes. An abrupt boundary carries the implication that some time (of unknowable duration) is potentially missing, which then requires caution in the interpretation of the pacing of events in relation to that boundary. In most instances an ‘abrupt’ or ‘rapid’ CIE onset can be attributed to a data gap at a hiatus, particularly in shallow shelf settings where transgression resulted from sea-level rise associated with the PETM. Truly gradational lower boundaries of the PETM interval are quite unusual and, if present, are poorly known so far. Gradational upper boundaries are more common, but erosional upper boundaries have been reported.

Taxonomic changes have been made to clarify identification issues that have adversely impacted some biostratigraphic interpretations. Apectodinium hyperacanthum has been retained in Wetzeliella, its original genus. The majority of specimens previously assigned to Apectodinium hyperacanthum or Wetzeliella (Apectodinium) hyperacanthum have been reassigned to an informal species, Apectodinium sp. 1. Dracodinium astra has been retained in its original genus as Wetzeliella astra and is emended.

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