ABSTRACT

Floral Lagerstätten deposits (i.e., fossil sites with exceptional preservation and diversity) are preserved within the Miocene brown coals of the Latrobe Group, Gippsland Basin, Australia. Three independent mechanisms are conducive to their accumulation. Throughout the coal seams the conversion of plant material into charcoal (fusain) and its accumulation in a subaqueous setting provides one means of near-perfect preservation. A second and more uncommon example occurs in the form of a 20 cm thick leaf-litter horizon that extends for over two kilometers. In this case, flooding of freshwater tributaries and lakes during the early stages of low-gradient peat development resulted in an extensive, shallow, acidic and water-filled depression that subsequently accumulated and preserved the surrounding plant material. The third and most common form results from the deposition of plant material into small, isolated pools that formed as depressions on the ombrogenous (i.e., rain-fed) and domed surface of the peatlands. In all of these settings an essential component allowing detailed floral preservation is the delivery of plant material directly to the anaerobic catotelm (i.e., below the water table), hence avoiding the physical and chemical processes of degradation that typically occur in the surficial aerobic acrotelm (i.e., above the water table). Leaf litter that falls into low-energy acidic and anoxic water-filled depressions that lie below the acrotelm will likely be well-preserved.

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