Journal of Cave and Karst Studies - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 61 Number 2: 89-92 - August 1999

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Pollen and Other Microfossils in Pleistocene Speleothems, Kartchner Caverns, Arizona
Owen Kent Davis


Pollen and other microfossils have been recovered from six carbonate speleothems in three Kartchner Caverns rooms: Grand Central Station (samples T2, T3, T4), the Bathtub Room (T11, T12), and Granite Dells (T16). The carbonate samples were dated from 194-76 Ka. The pollen concentration is greatest (~2 grain/cm³) in sample T11, which has many layers of clastic sediment, and the concentration is least in T4 (~0.05 grain/cm³), which has few mud layers. Therefore, the pollen was probably present in sediments washed into the cave, perhaps during floods. Although the pollen abundance in sample T4 is too low for confident interpretation, modern analogs for the five other samples can be found on the Colorado Plateau in areas that today are wetter and colder than the Kartchner Caverns locality. Agave pollen in samples T2 and T4 indicates that this important source of nectar was in the area during at least the latter part of the Pleistocene. Two orobatid mite exoskeletons recovered in speleothem T4 were probably washed into the cave with the pollen and mud trapped in the speleothems.

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