The First Evidence of Paleo-Wildfire from the Campanian (Late Cretaceous) of North Africa

Sallam, Hesham


Article written by Haytham El Atfy, 2010 DPDF After Secularization: New Approaches to Religion and Modernity Fellow Hesham Sallam, André Jasper, and Dieter Uhl, featured in Cretaceous Research, Volume 57:

Although the fossil record of plant macro- and mesofossils, including fossil charcoal, is patchy geographically and temporally, such remains play an important role for the interpretation of paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic developments in the continental realm. In Egypt, previous palynological studies on the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) deposits suggested presence of lush subtropical forests, dominated by angiosperms and pteridophytes, which developed under warm and wet climatic conditions. In the present study, the occurrence of paleo-wildfires during the Late Cretaceous (Campanian) is presented for the first time, based on samples from a surface exposure in the vicinity of the Baris Oasis, south Western Desert, Egypt. Macroscopic charcoal was collected and subsequently analyzed under a stereomicroscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM). The charred wood remains were identified as belonging to gymnosperms, which were important components of the North African paleoflora during the Cretaceous. These charcoal remains represent the first verified occurrence of paleo-wildfires in Africa during the Campanian.