Re: Grass in the Carboniferous.

Glenn Morton (
Sat, 25 Apr 1998 12:53:59 -0500

At 01:46 PM 4/25/98, James Mahaffy wrote:
>I found this post interesting. Those of us (like me) that work with
>coal often tend to dismiss something like the floating mat hypothesis
>and then we get Glenn suggesting that grass could form the Pittsburgh
>coal. If I am not mistaken grass in an angiosperm and there is no
>paleobotanical evidence (pollen or macrofossil) of it being present in
>the Carboniferous. It doesn't help if we miss the basic plants that
>were present.

I had been corrected by a guy privately and both of you are correct that
grasses do not exist in the carboniferous, and I knew that but used the term
loosely. I apologize. I should have corrected it then but I had many other
things and didn't. The earliest evidence of actual grasses of which I am
aware is in the Eocene. (William L. Crepet and Gwen D.Feldman, "The Earliest
Remains of Grasses in the Fossil Record," American Journal of Botany,
78(1991):7: 1010-1014, p. 1010)

I would definitely say that I did not intend the word to be interpreted as
an angiosperm. One can argue that the term sea grass, which kelp is
occasionally called is not indicative of an angiosperm and I didn't intend
the word to be taken in the technical context, but I should have anticipated
that. :-(

I would have to go back to look at it, but the spores and
>compression fossils of the Pittsburgh coal are quite well known. In fact if I
>am not mistaken Aureal Cross wrote one of the first big and good studies
>of coal using this seam. There would be herbaceous plants (several
>lycopods among others - that sometimes produce a lot of coal). However,
>I doubt if that is a good enough explanation. The Herrin Coal, which I
>work with, had a lot of arborescent lycopods (these are the ones that
>usually produce the trunks Bill is referring to) yet generally you do not
>find a lot of trunks in the coal.

I thought you were into invertebrates?

>In any case, I was cleaning up some files and had to repond to angiosperm
>grasses in the Carboniferous - let at least use the plants which we know
>were there. On second thought, we can't all be experts on all the areas
>and we shouldn't let that keep us from talking about them.

I sincerely wish that those more qualified in an area would jump in. If
those like you, will not engage with YECs on issues like coal, then somebody
less qualified, like me, will jump in. If nobody jumps in, the lurkers see
unanswered YEC claims that fit with all they have read and assume that there
is no answer. Do you think a floating mat hypothesis is the only way coal
can be explained?


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