TAPHOS - is Greek for Death

TAPHONOMY - Study of processes of preservation and how they affect information in the fossil record. Taphonomy encompasses processes between "death" of an organism and the recovery at the outcr

Taphonomic Processes Play The Underlying Role in the Characteristics of Fossil Plant Assemblages

Plant life strategy, habitats and ecological associations, original biochemical constituents, and the nature of depositional regimes have an effect on plant part representation in subfossil (< 10,000 YBP) and fossil assemblages.


NECROLOGY - Generally thought of as the Death of an individual. In most cases, entire plants DO NOT die in toto, but shed parts during their life cycle. These parts have the greatest potential for preservation within the stratigraphic record.

There are three process categories under which plant parts may become subject to fossilization.

NECROLOGICAL - The actual death of an individual or loss of vegetative and/or reproductive parts.

Vast quantities of biomass are lost from a parent plant either through physiological or traumatic mechanisms without necessarily causing plant death. These plant parts include the majority of specimens that become our data base.

PHYSIOLOGICAL - The loss of plant parts in response to a biotic mechanism.

TRAUMATIC - The loss of plant parts in response to an abiotic (physical) mechanism.

BIOSTRATINOMY - The interaction of plant parts with sedimentary processes and the ultimate burial and incorporation of macrodetritus in sedimentary rocks.

Autochthonous assemblages - This refers to the preservation of plants either in situ (in growth position) or in their site of growth. The only transport that may be implied is the fall of the canopy parts to the sediment interface below.

Parautochthonous burial - This implies a minimum of transport from the site of growth; those having been transported from the death or discard site but remaining within the original habitat before burial and preservation (see: Behrensmeyer & Hook, 1992).

Allochthonous assemblages - This involves the transport of plant parts away from their site of growth before burial.

BURIAL - involves the covering and/or inclusion of plant detritus within a sediment such that the organic matter is isolated from the effects of biological degradation.

DIAGENESIS - Processes involving physical and chemical changes in sediment (and that which is incorporated in the sediment) after deposition that converts it to consolidated rock. This includes compaction, cementation, and recrystallization.

© Copyright 1997 by Robert A. Gastaldo. All rights reserved. No part of these lecture notes may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the author.