A recent innovation in paleobotanical studies of the Cretaceous has been the use of bulk sediment disaggregation and sieving techniques. This approach has identified numerous Cretaceous floras that contain well-preserved plant fossil debris ("mesofloras"), and many of these have yielded abundant fossil angiosperm flowers, as well as angiospenn fruits, seeds and dispersed stamens. On the Atlantic Coastal Plain of eastern North America recent research has identified a new series of fossil floras of Campanian age from central Georgia. These form part of a rich sequence of mesofloras that range in age from early Aptian (or perhaps late Barremian) to Campanian. Detailed studies of fossil flowers from these floras have clarified the systematic relationships of Cretaceous angiosperms and identified source plants of several characteristic dispersed angiosperm pollen grains. Taxa referable to extant angiosperm families appear suddenly in the Albian and Cenomanian, and the number of extant angiosperm families that can be recognized increases rapidly through the Late Cretaceous. Based on the record of Cretaceous fossil flowers, "modernization" of angiosperm lineages occurred much earlier than had been inferred previously from studies of dispersed fossil pollen. Major extinct monophyletic "higher" taxa of Cretaceous angiosperms have not yet been recognized.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics