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Time resolution and the study of Late Cretaceous and Early Tertiary megafloras

  • Kirk R. Johnson (a1)

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In this paper, I discuss issues of time resolution and time-averaging in fossil megafloras from Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian) to Oligocene age. The sites are predominantly from North America with some examples from other continents. The purpose of this paper is to explicate the methods used to resolve the age and duration of fossil floras and to discuss the uncertainties associated with these methods. The age of floras is most important for their evolutionary, paleoclimatic and paleoaltitudinal applications, while the duration of floras (here defined as the time represented by individual assemblages, florules, or quarries) is critical for paleoecological and paleoenvironmental applications. Levels of time resolution of both the age and the duration of fossil floras are subject to time-averaging. Behrensmeyer et al. (1992, p. 75) have defined two types of time-averaging: analytical time-averaging which is artificial and results from techniques of analysis and taphonomic time-averaging which is natural and results from the taphonomic history of the assemblage.

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