Coprophilous fungal spores: non-pollen palynomorphs for the study of past megaherbivores

Posted on 2021-03-03 - 09:11
Spores from coprophilous fungi are some of the most widely used non-pollen palynomorphs. Over the last decades, these spores have become increasingly important as a proxy to study the Pleistocene and Holocene megafauna. Although the number of types used in palaeoecology is relatively small, there is a wide range of coprophilous fungal taxa whose utility in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction remains under-researched. However, environmental and taphonomic factors influencing preservation and recovery of these spores are still poorly understood. Furthermore, our understanding of whether and how spores are transported across the landscape is limited. Dung fungal spore presence appears to correlate well with megaherbivore presence. However, depending on the site, some limitations can remain to quantitative reconstructions of megaherbivore abundance from dung fungal spore records. The presence of dung fungal spores is often more significant than their absence and variation in abundance with time should be interpreted with caution. Correlation with other proxies may provide a promising way forward. The majority of studies using dung fungal spores as an indicator for large herbivore abundance are of records of Late Pleistocene and Holocene age, with a focus on Late Quaternary megafaunal extinction. However, more research could potentially extend records further back in time.

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van Asperen, Eline N.; Perrotti, Angelina; Baker, Ambroise (2020): Coprophilous fungal spores: non-pollen palynomorphs for the study of past megaherbivores. Geological Society of London. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5240664.v2
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