A new Hauterivian palynoflora from the Vale Cortiço site (central Portugal), and its palaeoecological implications for western Iberia

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Palynofloral assemblages are an invaluable source of information about the interactions between fossil plants and their environments. Here we describe a new Early Cretaceous palynoflora from the Lusitanian Basin in the Estremadura region of central western Portugal. A palynological assemblage of 28 genera and 40 species was extracted from 14 samples collected in the Vale Cortiço clay pit complex near the small village of Ameal (Torres Vedras Municipality). The source is a dark grey mudstone layer belonging to the lower part of the Santa Susana Formation, which is considered to be of early Hauterivian age. The palynoflora is dominated by fern spores and gymnosperm pollen. Bryophyte and lycophyte palynomorphs are also present but subordinate. Angiosperm pollen and algal or dinoflagellate cysts were not recognised in the studied samples. The palynological assemblage represents mixed conifer forest with the ground cover and understorey vegetation dominated by ferns, with patchy occurrences of bryophytes and lycophytes. A riverine environment with surrounding vegetation of open woodland and ground cover primarily of ferns is strongly indicated for the region.

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