Western Canadian Paleocene and Eocene floras


1. British Columbia Eocene ‘Okanagan Highlands’ project (Project leader David R. Greenwood).

Team members at McAbee fossil beds, July 2015.

  • Collaborators: Bruce Archibald and Rolf Mathewes (both at Simon Fraser Univ.), Kathleen Pigg (Arizona State Univ.), Jim Basinger (Univ. Sask.), Tammo Reichgelt (LDEO, Columbia U), Jaelyn Eberle (U Colorado, Boulder), Cathy Greenwood (Brandon Univ.), Dan Peppe (Baylor University, Texas), Aaron Diefendorf (University of Cincinnati), graduate students and others.
  • nserc_crsng_lowFunding for this project is provided by a NSERC Discovery grant to Greenwood for 2016 to 2020.
  • Team member Alex Lowe completed a M.Sc. student at Brandon University, working on the McAbee flora, integrating collections made summer 2016 & 2017 at McAbee into a site stratigraphy to reconstruct climate and vegetation character over time (Lowe et al. 2018a&b). We’re also planning to use geochemical proxies in a collaboration with Aaron Diefendorf (U Cincinnati).
  • Field work in Fall 2017 was supported by grants to Alex from SEPM and the Paleontological Society, and to Christopher West from the Geological Society of America.
  • Former Ph.D. student Robin Smith completed a thesis in 2011 on the paleoecology of the Falkland site, located midway between Kelowna and Kamloops (Smith et al. 2009, 2011 & 2012). Taxonomic analysis of this flora is ongoing.
  • M.Sc. student Robert Brown completed Summer 2014 examining the Driftwood Canyon early Eocene fossil site macroflora, and a 2nd M.Sc. student anticipated to commence in Fall 2015 on the palynoflora of this site.
    • Work on this site is in partnership with BC Parks and members of the local community, and in 2010-2011 included advice on Park interpretation leading to new signage featuring our research.
  • A former Honours BSc student at BU, Cale Gushulak (2013-2014), re-analyzed the early Eocene macroflora of the McAbee fossil beds for his thesis, focused on reconstructing climate from leaf physiognomy. Update: Cale has had his paper based on this work published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.
  • 2016 Honours student at BU, Markus Sudermann also worked on McAbee, completing field work there in late July 2015. His project applied digital leaf physiognomy to the 2015 field season collections, and we partnered with Dan Peppe at Baylor University in Texas for his project.
  • Outreach has included:
    • Public talks in 2011 and 2012 by team members in the town of Smithers (Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park), and on-site talks to local grade 6 & 7 groups, as well as advice to the BC Government on the heritage listing of the McAbee fossil beds near Kamloops.
    • On August 6th 2015 Greenwood, Eberle, Archibald and Reichgelt gave a team talk at the Princeton and District Museum and Archives in Princeton BC about our research on the ‘Okanagan Highlands floras’, which was reported in the town newspaper.
    • On February 18th 2016, Greenwood gave an invited talk in the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology Speaker Series, sponsored by the Tyrrell Museum Co-operating Society.
      • You can see the slides and hear his talk on You-Tube here.
  • As part of this project, Bruce Archibald compiled data on fossil insect diversity between the Okanagan Highlands fossil sites to assess patterns of regional diversity and to test ecological theories that seek to explain alpha and beta diversity (Archibald et al. 2010 & 2013a & b), including a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (London) discussing implications of Eocene giant ant fossils (Archibald et al. 2011), and a paper in PNAS on the implications of palm-feeding bruchine beetles (Archibald et al. 2014). Part of Robin Smith’s Ph.D. also considered these questions (Smith et al. 2012).
  • Field work in summer 2011 & 2012 discovered vertebrate fossils at Driftwood Canyon (Eberle et al. 2014). Field work in 2015 and 2016 focused on the McAbee fossil beds, with reconnaissance work around Princeton in both years.
  • An over-arching objective in this project is to document the biological diversity represented in the BC Eocene fossil sites (e.g., Archibald et al. 2011, 2013a, 2014Dillhoff et al. 2013, Eberle et al. 2014; Smith et al. 2009 & 2012).

    Map of British Columbia showing Eocene fossil sites, including sites under study. From Greenwood et al. 2016 (CJES 53)

Relevant recent publications (* = postdoc, graduate student or comparable HQP):

  1. Lowe* AJ, Greenwood DR, West* CK, Galloway JM, Sudermann* M, Reichgelt T. 2018. Plant community ecology and climate on an upland volcanic landscape during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum: McAbee fossil beds, British Columbia, Canada. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 511: 433–448, doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2018.09.010
  2. Lowe* AJ, West* CK, Greenwood DR. 2018. Volcaniclastic lithostratigraphy and paleoenvironment of the lower Eocene McAbee fossil beds, Kamloops Group, British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 55(8): 923–934, doi: 10.1139/cjes-2018-0019
  3. Gushulak* AC, West* CK, Greenwood DR. 2016. Paleoclimate and precipitation seasonality of the Early Eocene McAbee megaflora, Kamloops Group, British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 53(x): 591–604. doi: 10.1139/cjes-2015-0160
  4. Mathewes RW, Greenwood DR, Archibald* SB. 2016. Paleoenvironment of the Quilchena flora, British Columbia, during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 53(6): 574–590. doi: 10.1139/cjes-2015-0163
  5. Moss PT, Smith* RY, Greenwood DR. 2016. A window into mid-latitudinal Early Eocene environmental variability: A high-resolution palynological analysis of the Falkland site, Okanagan Highlands, British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 53(6): 605–613. doi: 10.1139/cjes-2015-0167
    • NB: These 4 papers (above) are part of a themed issue of CJES (June 2016 ‘Eocene paleontology and geology of western North America’) where Greenwood, Pigg, and DeVore were the guest editors of the whole issue.
    • This special issue arose from the symposium we co-chaired at the Nov. 2014 Geol. Soc. America meeting in Vancouver.
  6. Sudermann* M. 2016. Palaeoclimate of the McAbee Fossil Site Using the Census Collection Approach. Undergraduate thesis, Dept. of Geology, Brandon University. 57 pp.
  7. Gushulak* CAC. 2014. Paleoclimate of the Early Eocene McAbee Macroflora, British Columbia, Canada. Undergraduate thesis, Dept. of Biology, Brandon University. 64 pp.
  8. Archibald* SB, Makarkin VN, Greenwood DR, Gunnell GF. 2014. The red queen and court jester in green lacewing evolution: bat predation and global climate change. Palaios, 29: 185 – 191, doi: 10.2110/palo.2013.089
  9. Archibald* SB, Morse G, Greenwood DR, Mathewes RW. 2014. Fossil palm beetles refine upland winter temperatures in the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (22): 8095-8100, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1323269111
  10. Eberle JJ, Rybczynski N, Greenwood DR. 2014. Early Eocene mammals from the Driftwood Creek beds, Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park, northern British Columbia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 34(4): 739 – 746, doi: 10.1080/02724634.2014.838175 NB: Feature article and cover of issue 34(4).
  11. Dillhoff R, Dillhoff T, Greenwood DR, DeVore M, and Pigg K. 2013. The Eocene Thomas Ranch flora, British Columbia. Botany, 91(8): 514 – 529, http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjb-2012-0313 (PDF download requires subscription)
  12. Archibald* SB, Mathewes RW, and Greenwood DR. 2013a. The Eocene apex of Panorpoid scorpionfly Family diversity. Journal of Paleontology, 87(4): 677 – 695.  PDF here.
  13. Archibald* SB, Greenwood DR, and Mathewes RW. 2013b. Seasonality, montane beta diversity, and Eocene insects: testing Janzen’s dispersal hypothesis in an equable world. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 371: 1 – 8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.10.043 (PDF download requires subscription: or e-mail Archibald for PDF)
  14. Smith* RY, Basinger JF, and Greenwood DR. 2012. Early Eocene plant diversity and dynamics in the Falkland flora, Okanagan Highlands, British Columbia, Canada. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 92(3): 309 – 328. doi.org/10.1007/s12549-011-0061-5
  15. Archibald* SB, Greenwood DR, Smith* RY, Mathewes RW, and Basinger JF. 2011. Great Canadian Lagerstätten 1. Early Eocene Lagerstätten of the Okanagan Highlands (British Columbia and Washington State). Geoscience Canada, 38 (4): 155 – 164. PDF
  16. Archibald* SB, Johnson KR, Mathewes RW, and Greenwood DR. 2011. Intercontinental dispersal of giant thermophilic ants across the Arctic during early Eocene hyperthermals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278: 3679 – 3686. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0729 PDF (journal subscription req’d).
  17. Archibald* SB, Bossert WH, Greenwood DR, and Farrell BD. 2010. Seasonality, the latitudinal gradient of diversity, and Eocene insects. Paleobiology, 36(3): 374 – 398.doi: 10.1666/09021.1 PDF open access.
  18. Smith* RY, Greenwood DR, and Basinger JF. 2010. Estimating paleoatmospheric pCO2 during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum from stomatal frequency of Ginkgo, Okanagan Highlands, British Columbia, Canada. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 293(1-2): 120 – 131. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2010.05.006 PDF
  19. Smith* RY, Basinger JF, and Greenwood DR. 2009. Depositional setting, floristics and paleoenvironment of the Early Eocene Falkland site, a new fossil flora locality from the Okanagan Highlands, British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 46 (11): 811 – 822. doi:10.1139/E09-053 PDF

2. Paleocene floras from Alberta & B.C. and their climates.

  • Alberta has a number of early and late Paleocene megafloras, including Genesee (Lower Paleocene Upper Scollard Fm.) and Munce’s Hill (Upper Paleocene Paskapoo Fm.) as well as other sites from the Paskapoo Formation (Stockey et al., 2014). Large assemblages of plant fossils from these Paleocene floras are in the RTMP and AB and SK university collections.
  • The Kanaka Creek macroflora (lower Huntington Formation) from near Maple Ridge B.C., in the Fraser Valley, has been considered Eocene or Paleocene and is largely un-described. Current work led by Rolf Mathewes (SFU), together with Renee Breedlovestrout (U Idaho) seeks to clarify the age assignment of this flora, and to characterize its paleoclimate using leaf physiognomy.
  • Systematic studies on the Alberta Paleocene floras since the 1970s have documented a range of fern, conifer, dicot and monocot taxa, or provided overviews of individual floras and their paleoecology (e.g., Chandrasekharam 1974; Christophel 1976; Hoffman & Stockey 1999; Stockey et al. 2013).
  • A recent project described a new sabaloid palm from the Genesee site and characterized the paleoclimate of this early Paleocene site (Greenwood & West, 2017). Ongoing work seeks to characterize the paleoclimates of key additional Alberta Paleocene sites using leaf physiognomy.

Relevant publications:

  • Chandrasekharam A, 1974. Megafossil flora from the Genesee Locality, Alberta, Canada. Palaeontographica Abteilung B 147: 1–41.
  • Christophel DC. 1976. Fossil floras of the Smoky Tower locality, Alberta, Canada. Palaeontographica Abteilung B 157(1-4): 1–43
  • Greenwood DR, West, CK. 2017. A fossil coryphoid palm from the Paleocene of western Canada. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 239: 55-65, doi: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2016.12.002
  • Hoffman GL, and Stockey RA, 1999. Geological setting and paleobotany of the Joffre Bridge Roadcut fossil locality (Late Paleocene), Red Deer Valley, Alberta. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 36(12): 2073–2084.
  • Mathewes RW, Greenwood DR, & Breedlovestrout R. In preparation. The Kanaka Creek fossil flora (Huntingdon Formation) – paleoenvironment and evidence for Paleocene age using palynology and macrofossils. Can. J. Earth Sci.
  • Stockey RA, Hoffman GL and Rothwell GW, 2013. Paleobotany and paleoecology of Gao Mine, a late Paleocene fossil locality near Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 50: 235–248.
  • Stockey RA, Hoffman GL and Vavrek MJ, 2014. Paleobotany and paleoecology of the Munce’s Hill fossil locality near Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. In: Stevens WD, Montiel OM, Raven PH (Eds.), Paleobotany and Biogeography: A festschrift for Alan Graham in his 80th year. MSB 128. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, MO. pp. 367–388.