Permian vegetational Pompeii from Inner Mongolia and its implications for landscape paleoecology and paleobiogeography of Cathaysia
Jun Wanga,1, Hermann W. Pfefferkornb,1, Yi Zhangc, and Zhuo Fengd
aState Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China;
bDepartment of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6316;
cInstitute of Palaeontology, Shenyang Normal University, Shenyang 110034, China; and
dYunnan Key Laboratory for Palaeobiology, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China
Edited* by David L. Dilcher, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, and approved January 24, 2012 (received for review September 13, 2011)
Plant communities of the geologic past can be reconstructed with high fidelity only if they were preserved in place in an instant in time. Here we report such a flora from an early Permian (ca. 298 Ma) ash-fall tuff in Inner Mongolia, a time interval and area where such information is filling a large gap of knowledge. About 1,000 m2 of forest growing on peat could be reconstructed based on the actual location of individual plants. Tree ferns formed a lower canopy and either Cordaites, a coniferophyte, or Sigillaria, a lycopsid, were present as taller trees. Noeggerathiales, an enigmatic and extinct spore-bearing plant group of small trees, is represented by three species that have been found as nearly complete specimens and are presented in reconstructions in their plant community. Landscape heterogenity is apparent, including one site where Noeggerathiales are dominant. This peat-forming flora is also taxonomically distinct from those growing on clastic soils in the same area and during the same time interval. This Permian flora demonstrates both similarities and differences to floras of the same age in Europe and North America and confirms the distinct character of the Cathaysian floral realm. Therefore, this flora will serve as a baseline for the study of other fossil floras in East Asia and the early Permian globally that will be needed for a better understanding of paleoclimate evolution through time.
coal-swamp plant community plant paleoecology volcanic ash-fall tuff Wuda
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Author contributions: J.W. and H.W.P. designed research; J.W., H.W.P., Y.Z., and Z.F. performed research; J.W., H.W.P., and Y.Z. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; J.W., H.W.P., Y.Z., and Z.F. analyzed data; and J.W. and H.W.P. wrote the paper.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
*This Direct Submission article had a prearranged editor.
This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1115076109/-/DCSupplemental.
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