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12th International Palynological Congress (IPC -XII 2008) and 8th International Organisation of Palaeobotany Conference (IOPC-VIII 2008) August 30 – September 6, 2008 Bonn, Germany

Hot spring ecosystems through time: Homes for endemics, hot spring specialists o widespread but pre-adapted generalists? A Channing; A Zamuner; D Guido; D Edwards

Extensive, well-preserved and richly fossiliferous Jurassic hot spring deposits in Argentine Patagonia are provid ing information that allows generalisations to be made about the traits that adapt organisms for life in and around hot springs. These provide a crucial data point between observations of modern thermal ecosystems and the Rhynie Chert, which plays a central role in our understanding of early land plants. At active ho springs the plants and animals most commonly preserved, and particularly those that ar permineralised to the cellular level, are those that live and die in contact with silica supersaturated water of moderate to ambient temperature. These interactions occur frequently in pools on sinter aprons, distal areas of run-off streams, on extensive geothermally influenced wetlands and where geothermal waters interact with lake/river margin communities. Plants in these settings are commonly flooding tolerant and capa of withstanding physiological drought brought about by immersion in mineral-rich, brackish water. Plants preserved are representatives of genera with regional, even globa distributions, with adaptations to more common oligohaline-saline habitats e.g. saline seeps, evaporation dominated lakes, or coastal marshes. Similar observations can be made in Patagonia. Hot spring floras are of low diversity, comprising at present only fo taxa. This contrasts starkly with local clastic environments where a broad range of plan groups are present. The most stressed environment observed to be colonised, sinter apr pools, are habitat for dense monotypic stands of sphenophytes. The same groups are present in more distal, marshy, geothermally influenced wetlands but may be joined in areas where these merge with fluviolacustrine environments by probable shrubby cheirolepidian conifers. Progradation of geothermal environments across areas of coniferous forest “drowns” larger arborescent conifers, their fallen and decaying trunks/branches being incorporated into basal hot spring deposits. The hot spring biota, the generic level, has a regional, probably global, distribution, and is similar in many respects to that of contemporary lakes. So were the Rhynie plants truly endemics specially adapted to life in hot springs or typical elements of coeval clastic environmen We hypothesise, that more likely, they were flooding tolerant and capable of withstanding alkalinity, salinity and heavy metal stress and we re pre-adapted to hot spring environments via the margins of evaporation driven inland water bodies or coast fringes.