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land and water, and a mild and equable climate, permitting the existence of a rich vegetation in high northern latitudes. Of this latter fact a remarkable example is afforded by the beds holding plants of this age in Spitzbergen and Bear Island, in its vicinity. Here there seem to be two series of plant-bearing strata, one with the vegetation of the Upper Erian, the other with that of the Lower Carboniferous, though both have been united by Heer under his so-called “Ursa Stage,” in which he has grouped the characteristic plants of two distinct periods. This has recently been fully established by the researches of Nathorst, though the author had already suggested it as the probable explanation of the strange union of species in the Ursa group of Heer.
In studying the vegetation of this remarkable period, we must take merely some of the more important forms as examples, since it would be impossible to notice all the species, and some of them may be better treated in the Carboniferous, where they have their headquarters. (Fig. 15.)
I may first refer to a family which seems to have culminated in the Erian age, and ever since to have occupied a less important place. It is that of the curious aquatic plants known as Rhizocarps,* and referred to in the last chapter.
My attention was first directed to these organisms by the late Sir W. E. Logan in 1869. He had obtained from the Upper Erian shale of Kettle Point, Lake Huron, specimens filled with minute circular discs, to which he referred, in his report of 1863, as “microscopic orbicular bodies.” Recognising them to be macrospores, or sporecases, I introduced them into the report on the Erian
Or, as they have recently been named by some botanists, "Heterosporous Filices,” though they are certainly not ferns in any ordinary sense of that term.
flora, which I was then preparing, and which was published in 1871, under the name Sporangites Huronensis.
In 1871, having occasion to write a communication to the “ American Journal of Science” on the question then sequent chapter, these curious little bodies were again reviewed, and were described in substance as follows :
FIG. 15.–Vegetation of the Devonian period, restored. Calamites, Psilo
phyton, Leptophleum, Lepidodendron, Córdaites, Sigillaria, DadoxyTon, Asterophyllites, Platyphyllum.
“The oldest bed of spore-cases known to me is that at Kettle Point, Lake Huron. It is a bed of brown bituminous shale, burning with much flame, and under a lens is seen to be studded with flattened disc-like bodies, scarcely more than a hundredth of an inch in diameter, which under the microscope are found to be spore-cases (or macrospores) slightly papillate externally (or more properly marked with dark pores), and sometimes showing a point of attachment on one side and a slit more or less elongated and gaping on the other. When slices of the rock are made, its substance is seen to be filled with these bodies, which, viewed as transparent objects, appear yellow like amber, and show little structure, except that the walls can be distinguished from the internal cavity, which may sometimes be seen to enclose patches of granular matter. In the shale containing them are also vast numbers of rounded, translucent granules, which may be escaped spores (microspores).” The bed containing these spores at Kettle Point was stated, in the reports of the “Geological Survey of Canada," to be twelve or fourteen feet in thickness, and besides these specimens it contained fossil plants referable to the species Calamites inornatus and Lepidodendron primævum, and I not unnaturally supposed that the Sporangites might be the fruit of the latter plant. I also noticed their resemblance to the spore-cases of L. corrugatum of the Lower Carboniferous (a Lepidodendron allied to L. primævum), and to those from Brazil described by Carruthers under the name Flemingites, as well as to those described by Huxley from certain English coals, and to those of the Tasmanite or white coal of Australia. The bed at Kettle Point is shown to be marine by its holding the sea-weed known as Spirophyton, and shells of Lingula.
The subject did not again come under my notice till 1882, when Prof. Orton, of Columbus, Ohio, sent me some specimens from the Erian shales of that State, which on comparison seemed undistinguishable from Sporangites Huronensis.* Prof. Orton read an interesting paper on these bodies, at the meeting of the American Association in Montreal, in which were some new and striking facts. One of these was the occurrence of such bodies throughout the black shales of Ohio, extending “from the Huron River, on the shore of Lake Erie, to the mouth of the Scioto, in the Ohio Valley, with an extent varying from ten to twenty miles in breadth,” and estimated to be three hundred and fifty feet in thickness. I have since been informed by my friend Mr. Thomas, of Chicago, that its thickness, in some places at least, must be three times that amount. About the same time, Prof. Williams, of Cornell, and Prof. Clarke, of Northampton, announced similar discoveries in the State of New York, so that it would appear that beds of vast area and of great thickness are replete with these little vegetable discs, usually converted into a highly bituminous, amber-like substance, giving a more or less inflammable character to the containing rock.
Another fact insisted on by Prof. Orton was the absence of Lepidodendroid cones, and the occurrence of filamentous vegetable matter, to which the Sporangites seemed to be in some cases attached in groups. Prof. Orton also noticed the absence of the trigonal form, which belongs to the spores of many Lepidodendra, though this is not a constant character. In the discussion on Prof. Orton's paper, I admitted that the facts detailed by him shook my previous belief of the lycopodiaceous character of these bodies, and induced me to suspect, with Prof. Orton, that they might have belonged to some group of aquatic plants lower than the Lycopods.
* These shales have been described, as to their chemical and geological relations, by Dr. T. Sterry Hunt, “ American Journal of Science,” 1863, and by Dr. Newberry, in the “Reports of the Geological Survey of Ohio,” vol. i., 1863, and vol. iii., 1878.
Since the publication of my paper on Rhizocarps in the Palæozoic period above referred to, I have received two papers from Mr. Edward Wethered, F. G. S., in one of which he describes spores of plants found in the lower limestone shales of the Forest of Dean, and in the other discusses more generally the structure and origin of Carboniferous coal-beds.* In both papers he refers to the occurrence in these coals and shales of organisms essentially similar to the Erian spores.
In the “Bulletin of the Chicago Academy of Science,' January, 1884, Dr. Johnson and Mr. Thomas, in their paper on the “ Microscopic Organisms of the Boulder Clay of Chicago and Vicinity,” notice Sporangites Huronensis as among these organisms, and have discovered them also in large numbers in the precipitate from Chicago city water-supply. They refer them to the decomposition of the Erian shales, of which boulders filled with these organisms are of frequent occurrence in the Chicago clays. The Sporangites and their accompaniments in the boulder clay are noticed in a paper by Dr. G. M. Dawson, in the “Bulletin of the Chicago Academy,” June, 1885.
Prof. Clarke has also described, in the "American Journal of Science” for April, 1885, the forms already alluded to, and which he finds to consist of macrospores enclosed in sporocarps.
He compares these with my Sporangites Huronensis and Protosalvinia bilobata, but I think it is likely that one of them at least is a distinct species.
I may add that in the “Geological Magazine” for 1875, Mr. Newton, F. G. S., of the Geological Survey of
*“Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club," 1884 ; “Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society," 1885.