Plant remains from the Lower Cretaceous Fossil-Lagerstätte of Pietraroja, Benevento, southern Italy
Plant macrofossils with epidermal features from the Lower Albian (Lower Cretaceous) Plattenkalk 2 as exposed in “Le Cavere” quarry within Pietraroja Fossil-Lagerstätte, southern Italy, include sterile foliage-bearing shoots and reproductive structures of gymnosperms and possible angiosperm leaves occurring in a controversial marine depositional environment. The following taxa are recorded: Brachyphyllum sp., Frenelopsis sp., Cheirolepidiaceae gen. et sp. indet. and Nageiopsis?. Bituminous strata of the lower Plattenkalk 2 are full of plant debris composed mainly of isolated leaves and sterile axes. Taphonomic considerations suggest parautochtonous deposition for Frenelopsis while the other plant remains are allochthonous. Among the plants studied, the cheirolepidiaceous conifers have ecological significance owing to their (debated) xeromorphic foliar features. These adaptations suggest a warm and dry, or possibly coastal palaeoenvironment. Studied plant fossils together with sedimentological and palaeozoological considerations do not exclude a lagoonal hypothesis for Pietraroja sedimentary basin. This research expands the phytotaxonomic knowledge of the emergent lands within the Early Cretaceous Apenninic Carbonate Platform (ACP).