Animal–plant interactions in a Middle Permian permineralised peat of the Bainmedart Coal Measures, Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica

Ben J. Slater, Stephen Mcloughlin, Jason Hilton

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Evidence for invertebrate feeding on glossopterid gymnosperms is documented from Middle Permian silicified peats of the Prince Charles Mountains, Antarctica, in the form of coprolites occurring both free in the peat matrix and clustered within excavations in roots, aerial wood and leaves. Observations of coprolites in thin-sections of the peats and from scanning electron microscopy of examples extracted via bulk maceration reveal nine morphotypes distinguished by size, shape, surface texture and contents. These include coprolites with coarse plant debris, spirally ornamented coprolites, coprolites containing spore/pollen remains and fern sporangia, coprolites within Glossopteris leaves, an ellipsoidal morphotype within a fern sporangium, large isolated coprolites between matted leaves, clustered forms filling galleries inside Vertebraria roots and Australoxylon wood, forms with coarse indeterminate constituents and others with fungal contents. Other faunal evidence is limited to indeterminate arthropod exoskeleton fragments. Collectively, the coprolites within the permineralised peat from the Prince Charles Mountains document the presence of diverse feeding behaviours including stem feeding, sporangial feeding, palynivory, root feeding and mycophagy. The first evidence of invertebrate feeding traces in Vertebraria (glossopterid) roots is identified. These findings indicate that herbivory by invertebrates in the high-latitude Permian forest-mire ecosystems of Antarctica was more intense and diverse than previous studies have reported, and affected all parts of the Glossopteris plant, together with components of associated herbaceous taxa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-126
Number of pages18
JournalPalaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2012


  • Plant–animal interaction
  • Coprolite
  • Vertebraria
  • Ecosystem
  • Antarctica
  • Gondwana
  • Detritivory
  • Sporivory
  • Glossopteris
  • Component community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology


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