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Foulden Maar and South Island amber (New Zealand) - two exceptional windows into Southern Hemisphere Cenozoic terrestrial ecosystems

Abstract : Foulden Maar, Otago, New Zealand, is an Early Miocene maar-diatreme volcano with a crater filled by highly fossiliferous lacustrine diatomite. Since investigations began in late 2003, several thousand exquisitely preserved macro- and microfossils have been collected from plants and animals that lived in or around the maar-lake. The flora includes ferns, leaves with cuticle, flowers with pollen, fruits, seeds and wood, which, together with pollen data, are indicative of a diverse subtropical Lauraceae-dominated rainforest growing on volcanic soils around the lake. Diverse, mainly ground-dwelling insects and spiders from eight orders and arthropod- plant interactions show that arthropods were a key component of the forest ecosystem. Aquatic taxa include fish, diatoms, sponges, Chrysophyceae, a few water plants and insects. The majority of arthropods from Foulden Maar have close representatives in the modern fauna, but many of the plant taxa are now extinct in New Zealand. Together, these fossils provide an unrivalled opportunity to reconstruct a well-dated Southern Hemisphere, mid-latitude, earliest Miocene lacustrine/forest ecosystem. Recently, amber from the South Island, New Zealand has become an exceptional novel paleontological source for terrestrial microorganisms and arthropods with an otherwise poor fossil record. Amber is nearly ubiquitous in coal/lignite and non-carbonaceous sediments throughout the South Island but no animal inclusions and only a few floral remains have been recognised until now. In an ongoing study, we have collected amber from the Upper Cretaceous, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene and Pliocene, including discrete blocks, rounded "amberpebbles", millimetre-sized drops, sometimes associated with wood, and tiny resin plugs on leaf fossils. The preliminary study of these samples has revealed a range of well-preserved inclusions, including (1), araucariacean wood, (2), fungi, (3), sheathed prokaryotic filaments, (4), arachnids such as mites, a possible tick and spiders, (5), springtails (Collembola), and (6), insects including beetles, dipterans, hymenopterans, hemipterans, and lepidopterans. These finds attest to the quality of New Zealand amber inclusions and their remarkable potential for reconstructing past terrestrial ecosystems.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - 9:32:10 AM
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Uwe Kaulfuss, Daphne Lee, Jennifer Bannister, John Lindqvist, John Conran, et al.. Foulden Maar and South Island amber (New Zealand) - two exceptional windows into Southern Hemisphere Cenozoic terrestrial ecosystems. Palaeobiology and geobiology of fossil lagerstätten through earth history. A joint conference of the Paläontologische Gesellschaft and the Palaeontological Society of China, Sep 2013, Göttingen, Germany. pp.84-85. ⟨insu-00944701⟩



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