Waxweiler Gelände

Palynology and Microvertebrata of the Palaeozoic


The current research projects in the section are mainly focused on the Palaeozoic era, in particular related to the Devonian research in our department. They are primarily embedded in the Research Field IV “Biodiversity and Earth System Dynamics” and its Research Activity (Ra 4.1) “Evolving Earth and Environment” (EEE).

They are also in context with the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP 499) “Devonian land-sea interaction: Evolution of Ecosystems and Climate” (DEVEC) including the Turkish-German cooperation subproject DEVEC-TR, and its follower project Devonian Cycles and Global Events in the Northern Gondwanan Taurides’ (DECENT), respectively, initiated by our Devon Working Group. The majority of ongoing research is involved in interdisciplinary projects and is carried out in cooperation with colleagues from Germany and partners all over the world and the international and national Subcommission on Devonian Stratigraphy (SDS). Below are some examples of our projects.


Rhenish Massif and Eifel hills

Since a long time, this area is targeted with the Senckenberg Devon-Research. Current research is referring in particular to the siliciclastic sequences of the lower Devonian in the Middle Rhine Valley, the Mosel and the Lahn area and the territory of the southern Eifel hills. Palynological investigations on this material provide not only stratigraphic but also important information on the palaeoenvironment and early soil formation in the Lower Devonian.
The research is carried out in collaboration with Dr. S. Schultka (HU Berlin), colleagues of the Senckenberg in Frankfurt and Wilhelmshaven (Actuopalaeontology), Prof. Dr. W. Riegel (University of Göttingen), Dr. C. Hartkopf-Fröder (Geological Survey in Krefeld) and Prof. C. Brett (University of Cincinnati, Ohio).


In the area of the northern Ethiopia (Mekelle Basin), with cooperation from the Technical University Berlin and the University of Liège, we conduct a research project on the Ordovician Silurian boundary interval by means of palynology and sedimentology. The results on palynology (biostratigraphy) provide  evidence for the first time that the glacigenic sediments are of post-Hirnatian age. Intermediate dark mudstones may indicate a transgression sequence which could be equivalent to the “hot shales” which are common in several sedimentary basins in northern Africa. The surface sediments show exceptionally preserved palynomorphs (e.g., cryptospores) indicating a strongly influenced terrestrial palaeoenvironment.

 Co-operation partner

Dr. Robert Bussert, Technical University Berlin, Institute for Applied Geosciences, Berlin, Germany; Dr. Phillipe Steemans, University of Liège, Paleobotany, Paleopalynology and Micropaleontology, Liège, Belgium UCL Liège.



In the framework of the project “Devonian Ecosystem and Climate of Turkey“, DEVEC-TR (subproject of the IGCP 499 ), comprehensive geological and palaeontological studies of partly not well-known but continuous Devonian sequences have been carried out. In the follower project „Devonian Cycles and Global Events in the Northern Gondwanan Taurides“, DECENT studies are now focused on the correlation of these stratigraphically constrained sections (ranging from the Upper Silurian to the Lower Carboniferous) with respect to ecosystem and geological process related studies, e.g. hinterland processes and sedimentary provenance analysis. The relevant projects are conducted in cooperation with Prof. N. Yalcin and other Turkish colleagues, and the Senckenberg working group.

Bohemia, Czech Republic

Geochemical, sedimentological and palynological studies of the Silurian/Devonian boundary were carried out on the stratotype in Klonk (Bohemia, Czech Republic) as well as in SE Turkey for comparison and correlation of time-equal sequences .This research was initially performed in the framework of the DFG priority program SPP99.

Another project deals with interdisciplinary research on food chains in the Paleozoic, in particular on the interactions of primary producers (e.g. phytoplankton) and potential consumers (e.g. tentaculites) using selected fossil sites in the Devonian of Bohemia. Devonian successions in Bohemia with its well-known events provide extraordinary conditions to conduct such kind of studies. Recent investigations are related to the Chotec Event in which detailed palynological and palaeontological studies are carried out in cooperation with Czech colleagues.

A further project in Bohemia is related to Lower Devonian stratigraphy, in particular to the stratigraphic subdivision of the Emsian and its interregional correlation, which is performed in cooperation with the Charles University in Prague (Dr. O. Fatka). The predominantly pure and continuous marine successions furnish ideal conditions for such kind of investigation. Palynology data introduce very important stratigraphic and facies data for interregional Emsian correlation, related to the International Subcommission on Devonian Stratigraphy (SDS).

Palynology and Organic Geochemistry

In our section, we also focus on organic geochemical investigations on specific palynomorphs groups, starting with exceptionally well-preserved material. For example, isolated froms the SE Turkey (chitinozoans, prasinophytes and scolecodonts) have proven to be suitable for such studies. These are primarily stydied by pyrolysis analysis (e.g. Cupy-Gc-MS) and spectroscopy measurements (e.g. micro-FTIR) on specific palynological groups. Respective techniques and methods for the isolation of individual palynomorphs (hand-picking) were developed and improved in our laboratory.

Miocene of Egypt

Palynology and Organic Geochemistry of Miocene sediments: paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental interpretations of the Gulf of Suez, Egypt.

Although considerable research has been undertaken on calcareous nannofossils and foraminifera in this area, therefore there was a desperate need for ever-increasing biostratigraphic resolution, especially in understanding the reservoir-scale geology, and this requires new approaches. Palynology is an underutilized field in the Gulf of Suez, and this application provides an opportunity to demonstrate its effectiveness in the study of burial history and sequence stratigraphy which are key issues in understanding the geological development of the region. Vitrinite reflectance fluorescence and spore-pollen coloration index will be used to evaluate the Miocene source rocks from the Gulf of Suez. This work will be performed with palynofacies and palynostratigraphicanalyses and organic geochemistry for these deposits. This combination of studies will refine the geological history of a relatively poorly studied area palynologically, which is of immense regional economic interest.
This project is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as a PhD scholarship (Haytham El Atfy; DAAD – A/10/92695).


The Devonian of Egypt

Palynological studies on selected subsurface Palaeozoic rocks in the North Western Desert, Egypt.

The Palaeozoic rocks in Egypt have received very little palynological interest so far. It has been, therefore, an urgent requirement to use palynology for solving age dating, and to establish a reliable stratigraphic control for this part of the Western Desert succession. For such an aim, collaboration with Dr. Atef Hosny (Al Azhar University, Egypt) has been carried out. An initial project on this focus was funded through a three-month DFG Fellowship, and it is intended to conduct further studies in the Devonian of Egypt in a broader framework, including palaeogeography, palaeodiversity and palaeoecosystem studies of other areas on the northern rim of Gondwana.