A detailed stratigraphic and taphonomic reassessment of the late Paleozoic fossil flora from Promontory Butte, Arizona

William A. DiMichele, Spencer G. Lucas, Cortland F. Eble, Hans Kerp, Stephen Reynolds, Paul May, Kathleen B. Pigg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A late Paleozoic, likely early Late Pennsylvanian (Missourian/early Virgilian), flora from Promontory Butte, Arizona, USA is the westernmost assemblage of this age yet described from northern Pangea. The palynological species pool is similar to that typical of more central parts of the supercontinent; in contrast, the macroflora differs by facies, reflective of original habitat differentiation. The flora is preserved in a succession that includes sandstone, siltstone, shale, and conglomerate in an upward-fining series of beds. A break between the siltstone and shale is marked by an organic-shale bed, previously described as a coal, and its underclay/paleosol. This stratigraphic unit is interpreted as an active channel fill terminating in a lake. A detailed bed-by-bed facies analysis of the macroflora, focusing on the relationship between sedimentological features and fossil-plant composition reveals that the wetland floral elements are concentrated in the upper, fine-grained beds of the fill, including the organic shale and overlying mudrock, whereas the drought-tolerant, xeromorphic plants are concentrated in siltstones and sandy siltstones below the organic-shale/underclay couplet. Palynology, in contrast, suggests a uniform flora throughout the interval, indicating that macrofloral changes within the channel-fill sequence reflect microhabitat differences resulting from local changes in soil moisture conditions rather than climate change. The palynoflora is dominated by tree ferns and compositionally suggests a Missourian (Kasimovian) age, possibly early Virgilian; rare lycospore grains, characteristic of the Middle Pennsylvanian, are likely reworked from older sediments. Earlier collecting at this site did not sort the fossils by microstratigraphy and facies types, combining all floral levels into one assemblage that indicated possible co-occurrence of wetland plants and plants tolerant of seasonal moisture stress. Furthermore, a Pennsylvanian-Permian boundary age was inferred due to the abundance of xeromorphic, drought-tolerant taxa. In light of this investigation, a late Missourian age is inferred as most likely.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105004
JournalReview of Palaeobotany and Palynology
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Biofacies
  • Climate
  • Mixed flora
  • Pennsylvanian paleobotany
  • Pennsylvanian palynology
  • Western Pangea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Palaeontology


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