palynology


palynology
palynological /pal'euh nl oj"i keuhl/, adj.palynologically, adv.palynologist, n.
/pal'euh nol"euh jee/, n.
the study of live and fossil spores, pollen grains, and similar plant structures.
[1940-45; < Gk palýn(ein) to sprinkle, scatter (akin to pále dust, L pollen; see POLLEN) + -O- + -LOGY]

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      scientific discipline concerned with the study of plant pollen and spores (spore) and certain microscopic planktonic organisms, in both living and fossil form. The field is associated with the plant sciences as well as with the geologic sciences, notably those aspects dealing with stratigraphy, historical geology, and paleontology. Accordingly, the scope of palynologic research is extremely broad, ranging from the analysis of pollen morphology with electron microscopes to the study of organic microfossils (palynomorphs) extracted from ancient coals.

      As pollen and spores are produced in large numbers and dispersed over large areas by wind and water, their fossils are recoverable in statistically significant assemblages in a wide variety of sedimentary rocks. Moreover, because pollen and spores are highly resistant to decay and physical alteration, they can be studied in much the same way as the components of living plants. Identification of pollen and spore microfossils has greatly aided delineation of the geographical distribution of many plant groups from early Cambrian time (542,000,000 years ago) to the present.

      Important, too, is the fact that the evolutionary sequence of organisms based on the large fossil remains of plants in sedimentary rocks is recorded by the sequence of plant microfossils as well. Such microfossils are thus useful in determining geologic age and are especially important in sediments devoid of large fossils. Because of their abundance and minute size, microfossils can be extracted from small samples of rock secured in drilling operations. Palynological analysis therefore is of practical application to petroleum exploration and to other geologic research involving subsurface sediments and structures.

      The phases of palynology that deal exclusively with fossils are outgrowths and extensions of techniques and principles developed in the study of peat deposits of northern Europe during the early 1900s. In such research the presence, absence, and relative abundance of the pollen of various species of trees from known depths in the bog were ascertained statistically. Inasmuch as forest composition determines the pollen types trapped on the surface of a bog at any given time, it follows that changes in the pollen content reflect regional changes in forest composition. It was established that alterations in forest makeup were induced by climatic change over the many thousands of years since glacial ice disappeared from northern Europe. A relationship was thus established between the pollen content of the peat, the age (i.e., position in the bog), and climate. Application of such findings proved invaluable in subsequent studies of ancient climate, particularly the glacial and interglacial stages of the Pleistocene Epoch (approximately 1,800,000 to 12,000 years ago).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • palynology — [pal΄i näl′ə jē] n. [< Gr palynein, to strew, sprinkle (< palē, fine meal, dust < IE base * pel , dust, meal > L pollen) + LOGY] the study of living or fossil plant spores and pollen palynological [pal΄ənə läj′i kəl] adj. palynologist …   English World dictionary

  • Palynology — cite journal author = Gray, J. year = 1985 title = The Microfossil Record of Early Land Plants: Advances in Understanding of Early Terrestrialization, 1970 1984 journal = Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B,… …   Wikipedia

  • palynology — noun Etymology: Greek palynein to sprinkle, from palē fine meal Date: 1944 a branch of science dealing with pollen and spores • palynological also palynologic adjective • palynologically adverb • palynologist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • palynology — noun The scientific study of spores, pollen and particulate organic matter in rocks …   Wiktionary

  • palynology — study of pollen Sciences and Studies …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • palynology — [ˌpalɪ nɒlədʒi] noun the study of pollen grains and other spores, especially as found in archaeological or geological deposits. Derivatives palynological adjective palynologist noun Origin 1940s: from Gk palunein sprinkle + logy …   English new terms dictionary

  • palynology —   Study of all aspects of pollen from extant and extinct plants …   Expanded glossary of Cycad terms

  • palynology — pal·y·nol·o·gy …   English syllables

  • palynology — /pæləˈnɒlədʒi/ (say paluh noluhjee) noun the systematic study of fossil pollen in peat deposits, the stratification of which provides information about past changes in the land flora. {20th century; from Greek palyn(ein) to scatter + o + logy}… …   Australian English dictionary

  • palynology —   n. study of pollen and spores living and fossil …   Dictionary of difficult words


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