Taphonomy of fossil plants in the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation.
AuthorDemko, Timothy Michael.
KeywordsPaleobotany -- Triassic.
Plants, Fossil -- Arizona -- Petrified Forest National Park.
Plants, Fossil -- Colorado Plateau.
Committee ChairParrish, Judith T.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractFossil plants in the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation are preserved in fluvial channel, overbank, and lacustrine deposits. Plant-bearing units in these deposits are classified into seven types based on these depositional environments or subenvironments. Taphonomic characteristics of these assemblages, and of individual plant fossils within them, indicate that most plant fossils have either not been transported far from their growth sites or are preserved in situ. One particular deposit in the central part of Petrified Forest National Park preserves fossil plants in three associations: (1) allochthonous logs in basal lags in a channel-fill/lateral accretion deposits; (2) autochthonous horsetail trunks and parautochthonous horsetail leaves in a crevasse-splay deposits; and (3) parautochthonous and autochthonous cycadaceous, fern and other types of leaves, and erect and prostrate trunks in a paludal/distal splay deposits. Exposures of contemporaneous high-sinuosity channel and overbank deposits in this area enabled the reconstruction of the local paleogeography, paleohydrology, and paleoecology at a high resolution. Fossil plant assemblages of the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation are concentrated in the lower members of the formation. The lower part of the Chinle Formation was deposited in an incised valley system. Depositional, hydrological, and near-surface geochemical conditions in the incised valley system were conducive to preservation of terrestrial organic material, even though regional conditions were characterized by seasonal/monsoonal precipitation and groundwater conditions. Fossil plant assemblages preserved in these types of fully terrestrial incised valley-fills are taphonomically biased towards riparian wetland environments.