LATE ORDOVICIAN-EARLY SILURIAN PALYNOMORPHS FROM THE CORDILLERA ORIENTAL, CENTRAL ANDEAN BASIN, NORTHWESTERN ARGENTINA: A CONTRIBUTION TO THE ADVENT OF VASCULAR PLANTS IN SOUTH AMERICA
The Late Ordovician miospore assemblage is fairly diverse. It contains permanent tetrads and dyads, spores physically separated from cryptospore polyads, laevigate and ornamented hilate spores, and trilete spores. The trilete spores Ambitisporites avitus, Aneurospora? sp., Chelinospora cf. prisca and Leiotriletesspp. occur in the Caspalá Formation together with chitinozoans dated as early to late Katian. If land-derived palynomorphs were considered autochthonous, their age would be Hirnantian. However, if miospores were reworked like most of the accompanying palynomorphs, they could be Katian in age.
The trilete spores of the Caspalá Formation constitute their oldest record in South America, representing the advent of vascular plants in the region. The Lipeón Formation yielded Telychian trilete spores dated by chitinozoans, constituting the earliest evidence of Silurian vascular plants of Argentina. The diversity and abundance of miospores decrease in the Lipeón Formation in accordance to the disappearance of terrestrial ecosystems due to the global transgression after the melting of the Hirnantian glaciers. Acritarchs in both the Caspalá and the Lipeón Formation support the chitinozoan dating. Whereas chitinozoans and acritarchs show affinities with Gondwanan and peri-Gondwanan regions, the studied miospores confirm the cosmopolitism of Late Ordovician-earliest Silurian microfloras. The new miospore data, particularly those related to the incoming and evolution of hilate/trilete spores, question previous palaeogeographic and palaeoclimatic interpretations about the origin and adaptive radiation of vascular land plants.