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The impact of oxidation on spore and pollen chemistry

Jardine, Phillip E.; Fraser, Wesley T.; Lomax, Barry H.; Gosling, William D.


Phillip E. Jardine

Wesley T. Fraser

Barry H. Lomax

William D. Gosling


Sporomorphs (pollen and spores) have an outer wall composed of sporopollenin. Sporopollenin chemistry contains both a signature of ambient ultraviolet-B flux and taxonomic information, but it is currently unknown how sensitive this is to standard palynological processing techniques. Oxidation in particular is known to cause physical degradation to sporomorphs, and it is expected that this should have a concordant impact on sporopollenin chemistry. Here, we test this by experimentally oxidizing Lycopodium (clubmoss) spores using two common oxidation techniques: acetolysis and nitric acid. We also carry out acetolysis on eight angiosperm (flowering plant) taxa to test the generality of our results. Using Fourier Transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, we find that acetolysis removes labile, non-fossilizable components of sporomorphs, but has a limited impact upon the chemistry of sporopollenin under normal processing durations. Nitric acid is more aggressive and does break down sporopollenin and reorganize its chemical structure, but when limited to short treatments (i.e. ≤10 min) at room temperature sporomorphs still contain most of the original chemical signal. These findings suggest that when used carefully oxidation does not adversely affect sporopollenin chemistry, and that palaeoclimatic and taxonomic signatures contained within the sporomorph wall are recoverable from standard palynological preparations.


Jardine, P. E., Fraser, W. T., Lomax, B. H., & Gosling, W. D. (in press). The impact of oxidation on spore and pollen chemistry. Journal of Micropalaeontology, 34(2),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 3, 2014
Online Publication Date May 1, 2015
Deposit Date Sep 26, 2016
Publicly Available Date Sep 26, 2016
Journal Journal of Micropalaeontology
Print ISSN 0262-821X
Electronic ISSN 2041-4978
Publisher Copernicus Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 34
Issue 2
Keywords oxidation, palynology, ultraviolet-B, FTIR, sporopollenin
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:


Journal of Micropalaeontology-2015-Jardine-139-49.pdf (2.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:

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