Palynomorphs

Palynology is the study of organic-walled microfossils 5 to 500 micrometres in size. These fossils are known as palynomorphs, and include pollen and spores. 

The main groups of palynomorphs found in sedimentary rock are:

  • Hordeum secalinum, barley pollen grains.

    Hodeum secalinum, barley pollen grains.

    pollen
  • spores
  • dinoflagellate cysts
  • chitinozoans
  • acritarchs

Occurence

Pre-Cambrian to present day. This group has living relatives.

Pollen grains and spores are found in most sedimentary deposits, due to their:

  • microscopic size (typically smaller than 50microns in diameter)
  • production in large numbers by pollinating flora
  • wide geological timespan. Palynomorphs are the only microfossil group commonly found in post-Silurian non-marine sediments

Why study palynology?

The abundance and broad time span of palynomorphs make them particularly useful for dating rocks and understanding palaeoenvironmental and geoarchaeological change.

Many palynolomorph species require specific conditions to survive, making them useful indicators of global climate and environmental change

Dinoflagellate assemblages can reveal changes in ocean chemistry and temperature through time.

Recent palynomorph assemblages

Collections of modern palynomorphs can help us to:

  • reconstruct Quaternary climates
  • understand the impact of human activity such as deforestation and agriculture on the landscape

Modern pollen and spore collection

  • A dinoflagellate, Impletosphaeridium, collected in Hampshire, UK.
    Palynology collections

    The Museum's spore and pollen microfossil collections include the John Williams Index of Palaeopalynology and the modern pollen and spore collection.

Find out more
A dinoflagellate, Impletosphaeridium, collected in Hampshire, UK.
Palynology collections

Including the John Williams Index of Palaeopalynology and a modern pollen and spore collection.