Early Cretaceous araucarian driftwood from hemipelagic sediments of the Puez area

Evelyn Kustatscher, Howard Falcon-Lang & Alexander Lukeneder

We describe a calcareously permineralised fossil tree-trunk, preserved as driftwood, within hemipelagic sediments of the Cretaceous Puez Formation near Wolkenstein, South Tyrol, Italy. Planktic foraminiferal assemblages recovered from the marls containing the fossil wood indicate a latest middle Albian age. Based on its wood anatomy, the trunk is assigned to Agathoxylon and probably has an affinity with the conifer family Araucariaceae. The wood lacks pronounced tree-rings consistent with tree growth within the broad humid tropical belt that existed at that time. The trunk contains cylindrical chambers filled within faecal pellets, demonstrating that oribatid mites infested the tree, either during life, or shortly after death. Prior to final burial, the tree-trunk drifted out into the open sea for a considerable period as indicated by extensive borings assigned to the ichnospecies Teredolites longissimus and produced by teredinid bivalves. Relatively little is known about the Cretaceous floras of Italy, so this new finding fills a gap in our knowledge of the composition and ecology of the vegetation of this region.

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