Abstract

A new fault-associated paleokarst and cave fill has been discovered in north-central Illinois, emplaced in Ordovician limestones. The paleokarst preserves many original solution features, such as oriented grooves, pendants, and half tubes. Many of the ancient cave passages have rounded bottoms and flat roofs. Together these suggest that the original elliptical, phreatic cave passages grew upward by paragenesis, in which the floor of the cave is protected from dissolution by the presence of sediment, while the ceiling of the cave grows upward by dissolution. The fill is dated as Moscovian (Middle Pennsylvanian) based on palynological data and can be correlated with the Tradewater Formation. The fills are composed of a fining-upward sequence of relatively unindurated clastic sediments that contain well-preserved plant fossils, most notably voltzialean conifer and cordaite remains, representative of vegetation living in well-drained areas. Many of the macrofossils are fragmentary but charcoalified and, along with the megaspores, are uncompressed and preserve exceptional morphological and anatomical data. The presence of abundant charcoal in the fills, as well as diagnostic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, indicates significant wildfire activity in this area during this interval.

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