Identifying the pollen of an extinct spruce species in the Late Quaternary sediments of the Tunica Hills region, south-eastern United States

Mander, L.; Rodriguez, J.; Mueller, P. G.; Jackson, S. T. and Punyasena, S. W. (2014). Identifying the pollen of an extinct spruce species in the Late Quaternary sediments of the Tunica Hills region, south-eastern United States. Journal of Quaternary Science, 29(7) pp. 711–721.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/jqs.2745

Abstract

Late Quaternary fluvial deposits in the Tunica Hills region of Louisiana and Mississippi are rich in spruce macrofossils of the extinct species Picea critchfieldii, the one recognized plant extinction of the Late Quaternary. However, the morphology of P. critchfieldii pollen is unknown, presenting a barrier to the interpretation of pollen spectra from the last glacial of North America. To address this issue, we undertook a morphometric study of Picea pollen from Tunica Hills. Morphometric data, together with qualitative observations of pollen morphology using Apotome fluorescence microscopy, indicate that Picea pollen from Tunica Hills is morphologically distinct from the pollen of P. glauca, P. mariana and P. rubens. Measurements of grain length, corpus width and corpus height indicate that Picea pollen from Tunica Hills is larger than the pollen of P. mariana and P. rubens, and is slightly larger than P. glauca pollen. We argue that the morphologically distinctive Tunica Hills Picea pollen was probably produced by the extinct spruce species P. critchfieldii. These morphological differences could be used to identify P. critchfieldii in existing and newly collected pollen records, which would refine its paleoecologic and biogeographic history and clarify the nature and timing of its extinction in the Late Quaternary.

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