A revised stratigraphy for the Palaeocene Agatdalen flora (Nuussuaq Peninsula, western Greenland): correlating fossiliferous outcrops, macrofossils, and palynological samples from phosphoritic nodules

Open access


The Cretaceous and Palaeogene floras of western Greenland that were initially described as part of the classical work “Flora fossilis arctica” by Oswald Heer in the 19th century are currently under revision. The Nuussuaq Basin has repeatedly been investigated by geologists and marine invertebrate palaeontologists. These studies provide a modern stratigraphic framework and a basis for revisions of various Cretaceous to Eocene floras from this region, and the correlation of fossil material to stratigraphic units and formal formations. This paper is the first in a series of papers that (i) correlate macrofossil (museum) material and fossil-rich localities with the modern lithostratigraphic framework, (ii) describe new pollen, spores, and other marine/freshwater palynomorphs, and (iii) revise the macrofossil remains from the Agatdalen area (particularly the Danian Agatdal Formation). Since the work of B. Eske Koch in the 1960s and 70s, questions emerged about the correlation of plant fossiliferous outcrops and whether the so-called Agatdalen flora, referred to the Agatdal Formation, originates from a single sedimentary unit or not. In this paper, we summarise the stratigraphy of the Agatdalen area and correlate the fossil plant-bearing outcrops described by Koch to the current lithostratigraphy. We establish which plant fossils belong to the Agatdal Formation and re-assign a great number of other plant fossils to their correct formations. New palynological material is briefly described and correlated to the macrofossil localities and the Agatdal Formation. Previous accounts on the macrofossils (leaves, fruits, seeds) are briefly discussed and directions for future revisions are outlined.


  • BENDIX-ALMGREEN S.E. 1969. Notes on the Upper Cretaceous and Lower Tertiary fish faunas of northern West Greenland. Medd. Dansk Geol. Foren., 19: 204-217.

  • BIRKELUND T. 1965. Ammonites from the Upper Cretaceous of West Greenland. Medd. Grønl., 179: 1-192.

  • BOUCHAL J., ZETTER R., GRÍMSSON F. & DENK T. 2014. Evolutionary trends and ecological differentiation in early Cenozoic Fagaceae of western North America. Am. J. Bot., 101: 1332-1349.

  • BOULTER M.C. & KVAČEK Z. 1989. The Palaeocene flora of the Isle of Mull. Palaeontol. Assoc. London Spec. Pap. Palaeont., 42: 1-149.

  • BUDANTSEV L.Y. 1997. Late Eocene Flora of western Kamchatka. Proc. Komarov Bot. Inst., 19: 3-115.

  • BUDANTSEV L.Y. & GOLOVNEVA L.B. 2009. Fossil Flora of Arctic II. Paleogene Flora of Spitsbergen. Russian Academy of Science, Komarov Botanical Institute, St. Petersburg.

  • BUSHINSKI G.I. 1964. On shallow-water origin of phosphorite sediments: 62-70. In: van Straaten L.M.J.U. (ed.), Deltaic and shallow marine deposits. Elsevier, Amsterdam, London, New York.

  • CHALMERS J.A. & PULVERTAFT T.C.R. 2001. Development of the continental margins of the Labrador Sea: a review. Geol. Soc. London, Spec. Publ., 187: 77-105.

  • COLLINS J.S.H. & WIENBERG RASMUSSEN H. 1992. Upper Cretaceous-Lower Tertiary decapod crustaceans from West Greenland. Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg., 162: 1-46.

  • CRANE P.R. 1984. A re-evaluation of Cercidiphyllumlike plant fossils from the British early Tertiary. Bot. J. Linn. Soc., 89: 199-230.

  • CRANE P.R., MANCHESTER S.R. & DILCHER D.L. 1991. Reproductive and vegetative structure of Nordenskioldia (Trochodendraceae), a vesselless dicotyledon from the early Tertiary of the Northern Hemispere. Am. J. Bot., 78: 1311-1334.

  • DAM G., NØHR-HANSEN H., PEDERSEN G.K. & SØNDERHOLM M. 2000. Sedimentary and structural evidence of a new early Campanian rift phase in the Nuussuaq Basin, West Greenland. Cretaceous Res., 21: 127-154.

  • DAM G., PEDERSEN G.K., SØNDERHOLM M., MIDTGAARD H.H., LARSEN L.M., H. N.-H. & PEDERSEN A.K. 2009. Lithostratigraphy of the Cretaceous- Paleocene Nuussuaq Group, Nuussuaq Basin, West Greenland. Geol. Surv. Denm. Greenl. Bul., 19: 1-171.

  • DENK T. & VELITZELOS D. 2002. First evidence of epidermal structures of Ginkgo from the Mediterranean Tertiary. Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol., 120: 1-15.

  • DENK T., GRÍMSSON F. & ZETTER R. 2012. Fagaceae from the early Oligocene of Central Europe: persisting New World and emerging Old World biogeographic links. Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol., 169: 7-20.

  • ENGLER A. 1879. Versuch einer Entwicklungsgeschichte der Pflanzenwelt, insbesondere der Florengebiete seit der Tertiärperiode. 1. Theil. Die extratropischen Gebiete der nördlichen Hemisphäre. Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig.

  • FLORIS S. 1972. Scleractinian corals from the Upper Cretaceous and Lower Tertiary of Nûgssuaq, West Greenland. Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg., 100: 1-132.

  • FRIIS E.M., CRANE P.R. & PEDERSEN K.R. 2011. Early Flowers and Angiosperm Evolution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

  • GOLOVNEVA L.B. 1994. Maastrichtian-Danian floras of Koryak Upland. Proc. Komarov Bot. Inst. Russ. Acad. Sci., 13: 1-146.

  • GOLOVNEVA L.B. 2000. Early Palaeogene floras of Spitsbergen and North Atlantic floristic exchange. Acta Univ. Caralinae Geol., 44: 39-50.

  • GOLOVNEVA L.B. & ABRAMOWA L.N. 1990. New plants of the Rarytkin (the Upper Cretaceous, the Koryak upland) [in Russian]. Paleont. Zh., 75: 995-998.

  • GRADSTEIN F.M., OGG J.G., SCHMITZ M. & OGG G. 2012. The Geologic Time Scale 2012.

  • GREGERSEN U., HOPPER J.R. & KNUTZ P.C. 2013. Basin seismic stratigraphy and aspects of prospectivity in the NE Baffin Bay, Northwest Greenland. Mar. Petrol. Geol., 46: 1-18.

  • GRÍMSSON F. & ZETTER R. 2011. Combined LM and SEM study of the Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) palynoflora from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria: Part II. Pinophyta (Cupressaceae, Pinaceae and Sciadopityaceae). Grana, 50: 262-310.

  • GRÍMSSON F., ZETTER R. & HOFMANN C.-C. 2011a. Lythrum and Peplis from the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic of North America and Eurasia: New evidence suggesting early diversification within the Lythraceae. Am. J. Bot., 98: 1801-1815.

  • GRÍMSSON F., ZETTER R. & BAAL C. 2011b. Combined LM and SEM study of the Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) palynoflora from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria: Part I. Bryophyta, Lycopodiophyta, Pteridophyta, Ginkgophyta, and Gnetophyta. Grana, 50: 102-128.

  • GRÍMSSON F., FERGUSON D.K. & ZETTER R. 2012. Morphological trends in the fossil pollen of Decodon and the paleobiogeographic history of the genus. Int. J. Plant Sci., 173: 297-317.

  • GRÍMSSON F., ZETTER R., HALBRITTER H. & GRIMM G.W. 2014a. Aponogeton pollen from the Cretaceous and Paleogene of North America and West Greenland: Implications for the origin and palaeobiogeography of the genus. Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol., 200: 161-187.

  • GRÍMSSON F., MELLER B., BOUCHAL J.M. & ZETTER R. 2015a. Combined LM and SEM study of the Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) palynoflora from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria: Part III. Magnoliophyta I - Magnoliales to Fabales. Grana, 54: 85-128.

  • GRÍMSSON F., ZETTER R., PEDERSEN G.K., PEDERSEN A.K. & DENK T. 2014b. Middle Eocene palaeoflora from a resinite-rich coal bed on Hareøen (Qeqertarsuatsiag), West Greenland. 9th European Palaeobotany - Palynology Conference EPPC 2014: 86 [abstract].

  • GRÍMSSON F., GRIMM G.W., MELLER B., BOUCHAL J.M. & ZETTER R. 2016. Combined LM and SEM study of the Middle Miocene (Sarmatian) palynoflora from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria: Part IV. Magnoliophyta 2 - Fagales to Rosales. Grana, 55: 101-163.

  • GRÍMSSON F., ZETTER R., GRIMM G.W., KRARUP PEDERSEN G., PEDERSEN A.K. & DENK T. 2015b. Fagaceae pollen from the early Cenozoic of West Greenland: revisiting Engler’s and Chaney’s Arcto-Tertiary hypotheses. Plant Syst. Evol., 301: 809-832.

  • HALD N. & PEDERSEN A.K. 1975. Lithostratigraphy of the early Tertiary volcanic rocks of central West Greenland. Rapp. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg., 69: 17-24.

  • HANSEN H.J. 1970. Danian foraminifera from Nûgssuaq, West Greenland. Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg., 93: 1-132.

  • HANSEN J.M. 1976. Microplankton and sedimentological studies in the Nûgssuaq and Disko region, central West Greenland. Rapp. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg., 80: 39-42.

  • HEER O. 1883. Flora fossilis arctica 7. Die fossile Flora der Polarländer. Enthaltend: Den zweiten Theil der fossilen Flora Grönlands. J. Wurster & Comp., Zürich.

  • HENDERSON G., ROSENKRANTZ A. & SCHIENER E.J. 1976. Cretaceous-Tertiary sedimentary rocks of West Greenland: 341-362. In: Escher A. & Watt W.S. (eds), Geology of Greenland. Geol. Surv. Greenl., Copenhagen.

  • HOLLICK A. 1936. The Tertiary floras of Alaska. U.S. Geol. Surv. Prof. Paper, 182: 1-185.

  • KENNEDY W.J., NØHR-HANSEN H. & DAM G. 1999. The youngest Maastrichtian ammonite faunas from Nuussuaq, West Greenland. Geol. Greenl. Surv. Bull., 184: 13-17.

  • KOCH B.E. 1955. Geological observations on the Tertiary sequence of the area around Atanikerdluk, West Greenland. Medd. Grønl. [also in: Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg.], 135 [9]: 1-50.

  • KOCH B.E. 1959. Contribution to the stratigraphy of the non-marine Tertiary deposits on the south coast of the Nûgssuaq peninsula northwest Greenland. Medd. Grønl. [also in: Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg.], 162 [22]: 1-100.

  • KOCH B.E. 1963. Fossil plants from the lower Paleocene of the Agatdalen (Angmârtussut) area, central Nûgssuaq Peninsula, northwest Greenland. Medd. Grønl. [also in: Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg.], 172 [38]: 1-120.

  • KOCH B.E. 1964. Review of fossil floras and nonmarine deposits of West Greenland. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 75: 535-548.

  • KOCH B.E. 1972a. Fossil picrodendroid fruit from the upper Danian of Nûgssuaq, West Greenland. Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg., 98: 1-33.

  • KOCH B.E. 1972b. Coryphoid palm fruits and seeds from the Danian of Nûgssuaq, West Greenland. Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg., 99: 1-38.

  • KOCH B.E. & PEDERSEN K.R. 1960. Geological map of Atanikerdluk and environs 1:10 000. Medd Grønl. [also in: Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg.], 162 [23]: 1-38.

  • KOLAKOVSKIJ A.A. 1965. Ushia - novyj rod iz Kamysinkoj paleocenovoj flory. Paleont. Zh., 3: 127-132.

  • KOLLMANN E.B. & PEEL J.S. 1983. Paleocene gastropods from Nûgssuaq, West Greenland. Bull. Grønl. Geol. Undersøg., 146: 1-115.

  • KRASSILOV V.A., MAKULBEKOV N.M. & MASLOVA N.P. 1996. Ushia, a Palaeogene angiosperm of Nothofagus affinities from the lower Volga and western Kazakhstan. Palaeontographica, B, 239: 137-145.

  • KVAČEK Z. 2010. Forest flora and vegetation of the European early Palaeogene - a review. Bull. Geosci., 85: 63-76.

  • KVAČEK Z. & MANUM S.B. 1993. Ferns in the Spitsbergen Palaeogene. Palaeontographica, B, 230: 169-181.

  • KVAČEK Z. & MANUM S.B. 1997. A. G. Nathorst’s (1850-1921) unpublished plates of Tertiary plants of Spitsbergen. Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm.

  • KVAČEK Z., MANUM S.B. & BOULTER M.C. 1994. Angiosperms from the Paleogene of Spitsbergen including an unfinished work by A. G. Nathorst. Palaeontographica, B, 232: 103-128.

  • KVAČEK Z., MANCHESTER S.R. & GUO Z.-H. 2001. Trifoliolate leaves of Platanus bella (Heer) comb. n. from the Palaeocene of North America, Greenland, and Asia and their relationships among extinct and extant Platanaceae. Int. J. Plant Sci., 162: 441-458.

  • LARSEN L.M. & PEDERSEN A.K. 2009. Petrology of the Paleocene picrites and flood basalts on Disko and Nuussuaq, West Greenland. Journ. Petrol., 50: 1667-1711.

  • LARSEN L.M., PEDERSEN A.K., TEGNER C., DUNCAN R.A., HALD N. & LARSEN J.G. 2015. The age of Tertiary volcanic rocks on the West Greenland continental margin: volcanic evolution and event correlation to other parts of the North Atlantic Igneous Province. Geol. Mag., 153: 487-511.

  • MAI D.H. 1995. Tertiäre Vegetationsgeschichte Europas. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Jena, Stuttgart, New York.

  • MANCHESTER S.R. 1999. Biogeographical relationships of North American Tertiary floras. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard., 86: 472-522.

  • MANCHESTER S.R. & CRANE P.R. 1983. Attached leaves, inflorescences, and fruits of Fagopsis, an extinct genus of fagaceous affinity from the Oligocene Florissant flora of Colorado, U.S.A. Am. J. Bot., 70: 1147-1164.

  • MANCHESTER S.R., GRÍMSSON F. & ZETTER R. 2015. Assessing the fossil record of asterids in the context of our current phylogenetic framework. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard., 100: 329-363.

  • MANUM S.B. 1966. Ginkgo spitsbergensis n. sp. from the Paleocene of Spitsbergen and a discussion of certain Tertiary species of Ginkgo from Europe and North America. Norsk Polarinst. Årb., 1965: 49-58.

  • MELLER B., ZETTER R., HASSLER A., BOUCHAL J.M., HOFMANN C.-C. & GRÍMSSON F. 2015. Middle Miocene macrofloral elements from the Lavanttal Basin, Austria, Part I. Ginkgo adiantoides (Unger) Heer. Austr. Journ. Earth Sci., 108: 185-198.

  • NICHOLS D.J. & JOHNSON K.R. 2008. Plants and the K-T Boundary. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

  • NØHR-HANSEN H. & DAM G. 1997. Palynology and sedimentology across a new Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary section on Nuussuaq, West Greenland. Geology, 25: 851-854.

  • PEDERSEN A.K. 1985. Lithostratigraphy of the Tertiary Vaigat Formation on Disko, central West Greenland. Rapp. Grønl. Geolo. Undersøg., 124: 1-30.

  • PEDERSEN A.K. & LARSEN L.M. 2006. The Ilugissoq graphite andesite volcano, Nuussuaq, central West Greenland. Lithos, 92: 1-19.

  • PEDERSEN A.K., LARSEN L.M. & DUEHOLM K.S. 2002. Geological section along the north side of the Aaffarsuaq valley and central Nuussuaq, central West Greenland. 1:20 000 coloured geological map sheet. Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Copenhagen.

  • PEDERSEN A.K., LARSEN L.M., PEDERSEN G.K. & DUEHOLM K.S. 2006. Five slices through the Nuussuaq Basin, West Greenland. Geol. Surv. Denm. Greenl. Bull., 10: 53-56.

  • PEDERSEN K.R. 1976. Fossil floras of Greenland: 519-535. In: Escher A. & Watt W.S. (eds), Geology of Greenland. Geological Survey of Greenland, Copenhagen.

  • PERCH-NIELSEN K. 1973. Danian and Campanian/ Maastrichtian coccoliths from Nûgssuaq, West Greenland. Bull. Geol. Soc. Denm., 22: 79-82.

  • PETERSEN G.H. & VEDELSBY A. 2000. An illustrated catalogue of the Paleocene Bivalvia from Nuussuaq, Northwest Greenland: Their paleoenvironments and the paleoclimate. Steenstrupia, 25: 25-120.

  • POTT C., GRÍMSSON F., HØJGAARD B., HOFMANN C.C., GRIMM G.W., FRIÐGEIRSSON G.R. & DENK T. 2014. First Ginkgo leaf fossil from the Faroe Islands. 9th European Palaeobotany - Palynology Conference: 217 [abstract].

  • RADTKE M.G., PIGG K.B. & WEHR W. 2005. Fossil Corylopsis and Fothergilla leaves (Hamamelidaceae) from the lower Eocene flora of Republic, Washington, U.S.A., and their evolutionary and biogeographic significance. Int. J. Plant Sci., 166: 347-356.

  • RASMUSSEN J. & KOCH E. 1963. Fossil Metasequoia from Mykines, Faroe Islands. Ann. Soc. Sci. Færoe., 12: 83-96.

  • RIISAGER P. & ABRAHAMSEN N. 1999. Magnetostratigraphy of Paleocene basalts from the Vaigat Formation of West Greenland. Geophys. Journ. Intern., 137: 774-782.

  • ROSENKRANTZ A. 1970. Marine Upper Cretaceous and lowermost Tertiary deposits in West Greenland. Investigations before and since 1938. Medd. Dansk Geol. Foren., 19: 406-453.

  • ROSENKRANTZ A., MÜNTHER V. & HENDERSON G. 1974. Geological map of Greenland, 1:100 000, 70 V.1 Nord, Agatdal, 70°30′-71°00′ N, 52°30′-54°42′ W, vol. Geological Survey of Greenland, Copenhagen.

  • SCHMID E. 2000. Palynologische Untersuchungen an Phosphoritknollen (Mitteloligozän) aus dem Tagebau Cospuden (Leipziger Bucht). MS Thesis. University of Vienna, Vienna.

  • SCHMIDT A.G., RIISAGER P., ABRAHAMSEN N., RIISAGER J., PEDERSEN A.K. & VAN DER VOO R. 2005. Palaeomagnetism of Eocene Talerua Member lavas on Hareøen, West Greenland. Bull. Geol. Soc. Denm., 52: 27-38.

  • SCHWEITZER H.-J. 1974. Die „Tertiären“ Koniferen Spitzbergens. Palaeontographica, B, 149: 1-89.

  • SEWARD A.C. 1924. Notes sur la flore crétacique du Groenland: étude critique, original manuscript translated into French by S. Leclercq: 229-262. In: Société Géologique de Belgique (ed.), Mémoires in-4° de la Société Géologique de Belgique, Tome 5 (1924-1925): livre jubilaire du 50e anniversaire de la Société, 1874-1924, Vol. 1, fasc. 1. Imprimerie H. Vaillant-Carmanne, Liège.

  • STOREY M., DUNCAN R.A., PEDERSEN A.K., LARSEN L.M. & LARSEN H.C. 1998. 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of West Greenland Tertiary volcanic province. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 160: 569-586.

  • SZCZECHURA J. 1971. Paleocene Ostracoda from Nûgssuaq, West Greenland. Medd. Grønl., 193: 1-42.

  • WALTHER H. & ZETTER R. 1993. Zur Entwicklung der paläogenen Fagaceae Mitteleuropas. Palaeontographica, B, 230: 183-194.

  • ZETTER R. 1989. Methodik und Bedeutung einer routinemäßig kombinierten lichtmikroskopischen und rasterelektonenmikroskopischen Untersuchung fossiler Mikrofloren. Cour. Forschungsinst. Senckenberg, 109: 41-50.

  • ZETTER R. & HOFMANN C.-C. 2008. Occurrence of Aristogeitonia-type pollen (Euphorbiaceae) in microfloras from Central Europe during the Eocene Thermal Maximum. 12th International Palynological Congress & 8th International Organisation of Palaeobotany Conference: 317 [abstract].

  • ZETTER R. & GRÍMSSON F. 2014. Early Paleocene palynoflora from nodular phosphorites of the Nuussuaq Peninsula, West Greenland. 9th European Palaeobotany - Palynology Conference: 317-318 [abstract].

  • ZETTER R., HOFMANN C.-C. & GRÍMSSON F. 2011. Kurzzeitiges Auftreten tropischer Florenelemente im Paläogen von Mittel- und Westeuropa. 82. Jahrestagung der Paläontologischen Gesellschaft: 43 [abstract].

Acta Palaeobotanica

The Journal of W. Szafer Institute of Botany of Polish Academy of Sciences

Journal Information

CiteScore 2016: 1.17

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.524
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.513


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 23 23 19
PDF Downloads 5 5 3