|NPS Paleontology Research Abstract Volume|
Plant megafossils occur at many localities in the Chinle Formation of Late Triassic age in Capitol Reef National Park. These localities, which occur at several horizons in the formation ranging from the Shinarump Member at the base to the Owl Rock Member equivalent at the top, contain representatives of most major groups of vascular plants including horsetails, ferns, cycadophytes, conifers, and several taxa of uncertain classification, including Sanmigueia, a fossil that some authors believe is an angiosperm. The Chinle plant fossils are preserved as compressions, impressions, petrifications and pith casts. The flora correlates in general with the classic Chinle flora of northern Arizona and New Mexico. When study of these fossils is completed science will have a better understanding of the plant life and paleoecology of the area during Late Triassic.
Some of the fossils that occur in the park have either been described or mentioned in the literature but no complete study of the flora has yet been published. At this time the following plant megafossils have been recognized in the Chinle Formation in Capitol Reef National Park:
Zamites n. sp.
Plant macrofossils and pollen from twenty five packrat middens were analyzed in order to reconstruct the past vegetation and to analyze vegetation changes occurring since settlement at Capitol Reef National Park. The middens ranged in age from modern to greater than 39,000 years. Eight middens collected from Hartnet Draw in northern Capitol Reef allowed the reconstruction of vegetation over the last 5400 years. Presettlement middens consistently contained fossils of plants now heavily browsed by cattle such as winterfat (Ceratoides lanata), pinyon pine (Pinus edulis), sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and rice grass (Oryzopsis hymenoides), none of which are present in a modern packrat midden although some of these plants are present in varying amounts in the modern community. In contrast, the modern sample is the only midden containing specimens of plants typical of overgrazed range such as whitebark rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus visidiflorus), and greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus), and one of two middens containing snakeweed (Gutterezia sarothrae). The recent grazing impacts precipitated by far the most severe vegetation changes of the last 5000 years.
|United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service|