The epiphytic plants in the fossil record and its example from in situ tuff from Pennsylvanian of Radnice Basin (Czech Republic).

 

Authors: Pšenička J, Opluštil S

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 88, issue 2; pages: 401 - 416; Received 23 July 2012; Accepted in revised form 4 September 2012; Online 8 April 2013

Keywords: Selaginella, Carboniferous, palaeoecology, tuff, taphonomy,

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Abstract

Recognizing true epiphytes in the fossil record is still a major problem for palaeobotanists. Many indirect examples of evidence of epiphytic plants were previously published in palaeobotanical papers, especially from Pennsylvanian and Cenozoic times. Due to the special life strategy of epiphytes, which depends on presence of other plants for growth (so-called phorophytes), their preservation in the fossil record depends on the taphonomy of these phorophytes. Generally, the main factors for preservation of epiphytes are the type of environment in which the phorophyte grew, the habit-type of the epiphyte, the position of the epiphytes on the phorophyte, and the rapidity of burial. The ideal facies for preservation of epiphytes are in situ volcanic ash-fall deposits where plants were very quickly buried in the original place of growth. Vegetation buried in such deposits represents a single T0 horizon that reveals the spatial distribution of plants including potential epiphytes. Examples of two such plants are described in this paper from middle Moscovian ash-fall deposits in the Radnice Basin (Czech Republic). Both are Selaginella-like plants, which are informally named Selaginella sp. 1 and Selaginella sp. 2. Selaginella sp. 1 is interpreted as an epiphyte that probably grew in the leafy distal parts of the tree-top branches of arborescent lycopsids. Selaginella sp. 2 probably represents an epiphyte that grew on the trunks of the arborescent gymnosperm Cordaites borassifolius or the lycopsid Lepidodendron (Paralycopodites) simile. The interpretation is based on a set of subjective and/or indirect evidence. Direct evidence of epiphytes in the fossil record is still lacking. This paper documents for the first time herbaceous fossil lycopsids as epiphytes, as well as epiphytes described from three-dimensional compression material.

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