Field notes: Hunting for Paleozoic biogenic silica
Cindy Looy and Renske Kirchholtes in Caprock Canyon State Park.
Looy and Tabor are part of a research team studying the terrestrial paleoenvironmental record crossing the Permian-Triassic transition of Texas and New Mexico. Their roadtrip led them to several sections in northern Texas, including the stunningly beautiful Caprock Canyon State Park. Caprock Canyon's rust-colored sediments were deposited during the Permian and Triassic under hot climatic and oxidizing conditions. These "red-beds" are often barren of organic microfossils such as pollen and spores, but might still contain biogenic silica particles, e.g., phytoliths, that were formed in Permian and Triassic plants. The earliest results look promising, and Looy and Kirchholtes hope to describe biotic changes during this time interval using these minute plant-based silica bodies as an alternative to conventional organic plant fossils.
Photo courtesy of Cindy Looy