GNS Science NZ catalogue of fossil spores and pollen

New Zealand fossil spores and pollen:
An illustrated catalogue

J.I. Raine, D.C. Mildenhall, E.M. Kennedy


Nothofagidites kaitangata
The first formally described fossil pollen from New Zealand - Nothofagidites kaitangata (Te Punga 1948)

This catalogue has been compiled primarily as a reference tool for paleontologists engaged in biostratigraphic work in New Zealand pre-Pleistocene strata. It has been developed from an earlier check-list compiled for the Species 2000 project, and includes published records to June 2011. This fourth edition contains minor additions and corrections to the third version (Raine et al. 2008), as well as some new records from recent publications.

The presence of fossil spores and pollen in New Zealand sedimentary rocks was first noted by Edwards (1934), following earlier studies by Erdtman (1925) and Cranwell and von Post (1936) on Holocene peats. Since these early examples, workers in New Zealand late Pleistocene and Holocene vegetation history have continued to identify their material with taxa of living plants, with varying degrees of precision according to the species in question. A guide to nomenclature of New Zealand Quaternary pollen and spores has been provided by Moar et al. (2011).

For older fossil material that cannot be identified with plants in the living flora, a different approach was necessary. Formal description of fossil taxa was begun by Te Punga in the late 1940s (Te Punga 1947). This was a period of ferment in palynological nomenclature, and the use of alphanumeric codes and the quasi-Linnean "sporotype-sporomorph" system of Erdtman (1947) were soon abandoned in favour of the traditional Linnean system. Couper (1953, 1954, 1960) adopted a "half-natural" approach for his systematic works on the Cretaceous-Cenozoic spore-pollen flora. He identified some taxa with extant genera and species, added fossil species to some modern genera, and also established new genera and species for some taxa with no counterpart in the modern New Zealand flora. Later monographic works on the Cenozoic flora (e.g. Pocknall & Mildenhall 1984) have followed international trends and tended to pursue a nomenclature completely based on artificial genera and species with fossil types. This approach recognises that fossil pollen and spores often cannot be so confidently identified with the extant flora when the possibilities of plant evolution and migrations are taken into account. Also spore and pollen morphological features often do not permit discrimination between closely related extant species. It follows that taxa of spores and pollen based on fossils ("fossil" or "form" taxa) are commonly broader in scope than that of a single modern species. However a nomenclatural system based on type specimens is necessary for precision in paleontological taxonomy.

The stratigraphic boundary between the artificial nomenclatural approach and that of the late Pleistocene pollen analysts is ill-defined. Nevertheless the convenience of this arbitary division is followed here, and for the present (with a few exceptions) this catalogue includes only taxa with "fossil" names.


The catalogue aims to present a single page for each fossil taxon matching the following three criteria:

Some records of extant taxa from pre-Pleistocene strata have been omitted if they have not also been assigned a "fossil" name. We intend to include these taxa in a later edition of the catalogue. There are of course many other undocumented or undescribed taxa.

The synonymies include:

Our choice of a taxon name for the primary listing has been guided mainly by current usage, and no new combinations have been made. In compilation of the catalogue we have been reminded of many unresolved morphological and nomenclatural problems. The catalogue should be regarded as a snapshot of the present state of nomenclature rather than an ultimate arbitration.

We have included most available published illustrations of New Zealand specimens that are of sufficient quality to be informative; some individual specimens have been re-illustrated in different publications. Images are based on high-resolution scans of original photographic plates or drawings where these were available (i.e. for most of the NZ Geological Survey Paleontological Bulletins and Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences [GNS Science] Monographs and our recent publications), or on scans of published pages. The scale of the images is not standardised. Image file size and therefore resolution has had to be reduced for web transmission: higher resolution images for some illustrations are available from the authors on request (depending on copyright).

The brief morphological descriptions at present reflect only the major classification categories. Those using the catalogue for identification purposes should wherever possible also refer to the original literature. The web catalogue was produced using DELTA system software (Dallwitz 1980; Dallwitz et al. 1993, 1999), and ultimately it is intended to release an interactive identification tool based on this system.

Revision history

2011, November: 4th edition released online and CD, as a new edition of GNS Science Miscellaneous series no.4. This edition incorporates minor corrections and additions to September 2011. Additional publications contributing illustrations include Browne et al. (2008), Pole & Vajda (2009), Vajda & Raine (2010), Willumsen & Vajda (2010), Jordan et al (2010), Conran et al. (2010), Lee et al. (2010), Ferguson et al. (2010), and Wanntorp et al. (2011). In all, there are 849 taxa listed.

2008, June: 3rd edition released online and CD, as a new edition of GNS Science Miscellaneous series no.4. This edition incorporates minor corrections and additions to June 2008. The introductory text is now separated out as a separate page, and the on-page Google search replaced with a simple text string search of the index page. Additional publications contributing illustrations include Cantrill & Raine (2006), Mildenhall & Alloway (2008), and Raine (2008).

2006, November: 2nd edition released online and CD, as GNS Science Miscellaneous series no.4. This edition incorporates minor corrections and additions to June 2006. Unpublished taxon records were dropped. Additional publications contributing illustrations include Bannister et al. (2005) and Evans (1970).

2005, July: 1st edition released online and later in 2005 in CD format, as Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Information Series no.68.

Cite this publication as: "J.I. Raine, D.C. Mildenhall, E.M. Kennedy (2011). New Zealand fossil spores and pollen: an illustrated catalogue. 4th edition. GNS Science miscellaneous series no. 4.".
© GNS Science, 2011
ISBN 978-0-478-19871-3
ISSN 1177-2441
(Available also in CD version from: Publications Officer, GNS Science, P.O. Box 30368 Lower Hutt, New Zealand)

DELTA Dallwitz (1980) and Dallwitz, Paine and Zurcher (1993, 1999) should also be cited (see References).


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