Pollen in packrat middens: The contribution of filtration

Mary Kay O’Rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Fossil packrat middens are used to reconstruct late Quaternary environments in the arid Western U.S.A. Airborne pollen is contributed to middens both directly from the air, and through adherence to plant macrofossils. I examined the filtration of atmospheric pollen by Larrea iridenata leaves (resinous, with sparse recumbent hairs), Cercidium microphyllum twigs (glabrous with recumbent hairs) and Sphaeralcea ambigua leaves (covered with stellate hairs) and evaluated the potential biases of scavenged pollen on the interpretation of pollen records from middens. Pollen grains collected from the surfaces of the plants were most numerous during the spring when (airborne) pollen concentrations were high. Of the species investigated, the Sphaeralcea leaves filtered the greatest number of spring pollen grains from the air (3419 grains cm-2); captured pollen was very low during other seasons. Sticky Larrea leaves continuously captured airborne pollen (X̄ = 246 grains cm-2). Pollen captured by smooth Cercidium was consistently low (X̄ = 31 grains cm-2). Only the spring pollen was filtered in sufficient numbers to obtain minimum pollen counts of 200 grains by all 3 taxa. The plants frequently captured greater proportions of their own pollen. Pollen content of packrat middens will reflect the season of plant macrofossil collection and the species composition of the plants incorporated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-341
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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