Wildfires in the Campanian of James Ross Island: a new macro-charcoal record for the Antarctic Peninsula

  • Flaviana Jorge de Lima Laboratório de Paleobiologia e Microestruturas, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Centro Acadêmico de Vitória, Vitória de Santo Antão, Pernambuco, Brazil https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8602-6508
  • Juliana Manso Sayão Laboratory of Antarctic Paleobiology and Paleogeography, National Museum, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3619-0323
  • Luiza C. M. de Oliveira Ponciano Laboratory of Applied Taphonomy and Paleoecology, Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6700-2391
  • Luiz C. Weinschütz Paleontological Center, University of Contestado, Campus Mafra, Santa Catarina, Brazil https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8978-6120
  • Rodrigo Figueiredo Department of Biology, Federal University of Espírito Santo, Alegre, Espírito Santo, Brazil https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4304-6434
  • Taissa Marques Rodrigues Department of Biological Sciences, Federal University of Espírito Santo, Vitória, Espírito Santo, Brazil https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7918-1358
  • Renan Alfredo Machado Bantim Universidade Regional do Cariri https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4576-0989
  • Antonio Álamo Feitosa Saraiva Laboratory of Paleontology, Regional University of Cariri, Crato, Ceará, Brazil https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0127-8912
  • André Jasper Postgraduate Program in Environment and Development, University of Vale do Taquari, Lajeado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8143-9733
  • Dieter Uhl Postgraduate Program in Environment and Development, University of Vale do Taquari, Lajeado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; and Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9938-5339
  • Alexander W.A. Kellner Laboratory of Antarctic Paleobiology and Paleogeography, National Museum, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7174-9447
Keywords: Charcoal, Palaeo-wildfires, Cretaceous, Southern Hemisphere, Gondwana, Cretaceous high-fire


The Cretaceous “high-fire” period was a global event that reached almost all continental masses during that period in Earth’s history. The extensive wildfires directly affected plant communities. Significant palaeobotanical records in the Antarctic Peninsula have been studied from the James Ross Sub-Basin, especially from the Santa Marta Formation. However, there is no described evidence for palaeo-wildfires in the area so far. Here, we present the first occurrence of fossilized macro-charcoal coming from James Ross Island, confirming that palaeo-wildfires occurred in the Campanian vegetation preserved in the Santa Marta Formation. The new charcoal material has a gymnospermous taxonomic affinity, more specifically with the Araucariaceae, which is in accordance with previous palaeobotanical records from James Ross Island. This occurrence adds new information to the construction of the palaeo-wildfire scenario for Gondwana.


Download data is not yet available.


Arzadun G., Cisternas M.E., Cesaretti N.N. & Tomezzoli R.N. 2017. Presence of charcoal as evidence of paleofires in the Claromeco Basin, Permian of Gondwana, Argentina: diagenetic and paleoenvironment analysis based on coal petrography studies. GeoResJ 14, 121–134, doi: 10.1016/j.grj.2017.11.001.

Belcher C.M. & McElwain J.C. 2008. Limits for combustion in low O2 redefine paleoatmospheric predictions for the Mesozoic. Science 321, 1197–1200, doi: 10.1126/science.1160978.

Birkenmajer K. 2001. Mesozoic and Cenozoic stratigraphic units in parts of the South Shetland Islands and northern Antarctic Peninsula (as used by the Polish Antarctic programmes). Studia Geologica Polonica 118, 5–188.

Boger S.D. 2011. Antarctica—before and after Gondwana. Gondwana Research 19, 335–371, doi: 10.1016/j.gr.2010.09.003.

Bond W.J. & Scott A.C. 2010. Fire and the spread of flowering plants in the Cretaceous. New Phytologist 188, 1137–1150, doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03418.x.

Brown S.A.E., Scott A.C., Glasspool I.J. & Collinson M.E. 2012. Cretaceous wildfires and their impact on the Earth system. Cretaceous Research 36, 162–190, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2012.02.008.

Cantrill D.J. & Poole I. 2005. Taxonomic turnover and abundance in Cretaceous to Tertiary wood floras of Antarctica: implications for changes in forest ecology. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 215, 205–219, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2004.09.004.

Crame J.A., Lomas S.A., Pirrie D. & Luther A. 1996. Late Cretaceous extinction patterns in Antarctica. Journal Geological Society London 153, 503–506, doi: 10.1144/gsjgs.153.4.0503.

Crame J.A., Pirrie D., Riding J.B. & Thomson M.R.A. 1991. Campanian Maastrichtian (Cretaceous) stratigraphy of the James Ross Island area, Antarctica. Journal of the Geological Society 148, 1125–1140, doi: 10.1144/gsjgs.148.6.1125.

Eklund H., Cantrill D.J. & Francis J.E. 2004. Late Cretaceous plant mesofossils from Table Nunatak, Antarctica. Cretaceous Research 25, 211–228, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2003.11.004.

El Atfy H., Anan T., Jasper A. & Uhl D. 2019. Repeated occurrence of palaeo-wildfires during deposition of the Bahariya Formation (Early Cenomanian) of Egypt. Journal of Palaeogeography 8, article no. 28, doi: 10.1186/s42501-019-0042-6.

Gerards T., Damblon F., Wauthoz B. & Gerrienne P. 2007. Comparison of cross-field pitting in fresh, dried and charcoalified softwoods. Iawa Journal 28, 49–60, doi: 10.1163/22941932-90001618.

Glasspool I.J., Scott A.C., Waltham D., Pronina N. & Shao L. 2015. The impact of fire on the Late Paleozoic Earth system. Frontiers in Plant Science 6, article no. 756, doi:10.3389/fpls.2015.00756.

Hathway B. 2000. Continental rift to back-arc basIn: Jurassic–Cretaceous stratigraphical and structural evolution of the Larsen Basin, Antarctic Peninsula. Journal of the Geological Society 157, 417–432, doi: 10.1144/jgs.157.2.417.

Herendeen P.S. 1991. Charcoalified angiosperm wood from the Cretaceous of eastern North America and Europe. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 70, 225–239, doi: 10.1016/0034-6667(91)90004-M.

Jones T.P. & Chaloner W.G. 1991. Fossil charcoal, its recognition and palaeoatmospheric significance. Paleogeography Paleoclimatology Paleoecology 97, 39–50, doi: 10.1016/0031-0182(91)90180-Y.

Kellner A.W.A., Rodrigues T., Costa F.R., Weinschütz L.C., Figueiredo R.G., Souza G.A. & Sayão J.M. 2019. Pterodactyloid pterosaur bones from Cretaceous deposits of the Antarctic Peninsula. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 91, Suppl. 2, e20191300, doi: 10.1590/0001-3765201920191300.

Klages J.P., Salzmann U., Bickert T., Hillenbrand C.D., Gohl K., Kuhn G., Botahy S.M., Titschack J., Müller J., Frederichs T., Bauersachs T., Ehrmann W., van de Flierdt T., Pereira P.S., Larter R.D., Lohmann G., Niezgodzki I., Uenzelmann-Neben G., Zundel M., Spiegel C., Mark C., Chew D., Francis J.E., Nehrke G., Schwarz F., Smith J.A., Freudenthal T., Esper O., Pälike H., Ronge T.A. & Dziadek R. 2020. Temperate rainforests near the South Pole during peak Cretaceous warmth. Nature 580, 81–86, doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2148-5.

Kvacek J. & Sakala J. 2011. Late Cretaceous flora of James Ross Island (Antarctica)—preliminary report. Czech Polar Reports 1, 96–103, doi: 10.5817/CPR2011-2-9.

Kvacek J. & Vodrazka R. 2016. Late Cretaceous flora of the Hidden Lake Formation, James Ross Island (Antarctica), its biostratigraphy and palaeoecological implications. Cretaceous Research 58, 183–201, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2015.09.014.

Leppe M., Mihoc M., Varela N., Stinnesbeck W., Mansilla H., Bierma H., Cisterna K., Frey E. & Jujihara T. 2012. Evolution of the Austral–Antarctic flora during the Cretaceous: new insights from a paleobiogeographic perspective. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 85, 369–392, doi: 10.4067/S0716-078X2012000400002.

Lima F.J., Pires E.F., Jasper A., Uhl D., Saraiva A.A.F. & Sayão J.M. 2019. Fire in the paradise: evidence of repeated palaeo-wildfires from the Araripe Fossil Lagerstätte (Araripe Basin, Aptian-Albian), northeast Brazil. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 99, 367–378, doi: 0.1007/s12549-018-0359-7.

Macdonald J.A., Montgomery J.C. & Wells R.M.G. 1987. Comparative physiology of Antarctic species. In G. Di Prisco et al. (eds.): Advances in marine biology. Pp. 321–388. London: Academic Press.

Manfroi J., Dutra T.L., Gnaedinger S.C., Uhl D. & Jasper A. 2015. The first report of a Campanian palaeo-wildfire in the west Antarctic Peninsula. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 418, 12–18, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.11.012.

McGlone M.S., Buitenwerf R. & Richardson S.J. 2016. The formation of the oceanic temperate forests of New Zealand, New Zealand. Journal of Botany 54, 128–155, doi: 10.1080/0028825X.2016.1158196.

Olivero E.B. 2012. Sedimentary cycles, ammonite diversity and palaeoenvironmental changes in the Upper Cretaceous Marambio Group, Antarctica. Cretaceous Research 34, 348–366, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2011.11.015.

Olivero E.B. & Medina F.A. 2000. Patterns of Late Cretaceous ammonite biogeography in southern high latitudes: the family Kossmaticeratidae in Antarctica. Cretaceous Research 21, 269–279, doi: 10.1006/cres.1999.0192.

Pinheiro A.P., Saraiva A.A.F., Santana W., Sayão J.M., Figueiredo R.G., Rodrigues T., Weinschütz L.C., de Oliveira Ponciano L.C.M. & Kellner A.W.A. 2020. New Antarctic clawed lobster species (Crustacea: Decapoda: Nephropidae) from the Upper Cretaceous of James Ross Island. Polar Research 39, article no. 39, doi: 10.33265/polar.v39.3727.

Piovesan E.K., Filho O.J.C., Melo R.M., Lacerda L.D., Santos R.O., Pinheiro A.P., Costa F.R., Sayão J.M. & Kellner A.W.A. 2021. The Campanian–Maastrichtian interval at The Naze, James Ross Island, Antarctica: microbiostratigraphic and paleoenvironmental study. Cretaceous Research 120, 104725, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104725.

Pipo M.L., Iglesias A. & Bodnar J. 2020. A new vesselless angiosperm stem with a cambial variant from the Upper Cretaceous of Antarctica. Acta Palaeontologia Polonica 65, 261–272, doi: 10.4202/app.00697.2019.

Pirrie D., Crame J.A., Riding J.B., Butcher A.R. & Taylor P.D. 1997. Miocene glaciomarine sedimentation in the northern Antarctic Peninsula region: the stratigraphy and sedimentology of the Hobbs Glacier Formation, James Ross Island, Geological Magazine 134, 745–762, doi: 10.1017/S0016756897007796.

Poole I. & Cantrill D.J. 2006. Cretaceous and Cenozoic vegetation of Antarctica integrating the fossil wood record. In J.E. Francis et al. (eds.): Cretaceous–Tertiary high-latitude palaeoenvironments, James Ross Basin, Antarctica. Pp. 63–81. London: Geological Society, Special Publications.

Poole I., Cantrill D.J., Hayes P. & Francis J.E. 2000. The fossil record of Cunoniaceae: new evidence from Late Cretaceous wood of Antarctica. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 111, 127–144, doi: 10.1016/s0034-6667(00)00023-3.

Poole I. & Francis J.E. 1999. The first record of fossil atherospermataceous wood from the Upper Cretaceous of Antarctica. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 107, 97–107, doi: 10.1016/S0034-6667(99)00013-5.

Poole I. & Francis J.E. 2000. The first record of fossil wood of Winteraceae from the Upper Cretaceous of Antarctica. Annals of Botany 85, 307–315, doi: 10.1006/anbo.1999.1049.

Poole I., Gottwald H. & Francis J.E. 2000. Illiciaceae, an element of Gondwanan polar forests? Late Cretaceous and Early Tertiary woods of Antarctica. Annals of Botany 86, 421–432, doi: 10.1006/anbo.2000.1208.

Prior L.D., French B.J. & Bowman D.M.J.S. 2018. Effect of experimental fire on seedlings of Australian and Gondwanan trees species from a Tasmanian montane vegetation mosaic. Australian Journal of Botany 66, 511–517, doi: 10.1071/BT18124.

Pujana R.R., Iglesias A., Raffi M.E. & Olivero E.B. 2018. Angiosperm fossil woods from the Upper Cretaceous of western Antarctica (Santa Marta Formation). Cretaceous Research 90, 349–362, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2018.06.009.

Pujana R.R., Raffi M.E. & Olivero E.B. 2017. Conifer fossil woods from the Santa Marta Formation (Upper Cretaceous), Brandy Bay, James Ross Island, Antarctica. Cretaceous Research 77, 28–38, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2017.04.016.

Pujana R.R., Santillana S.N. & Marenssi S.A. 2014. Conifer fossil woods from the La Meseta Formation (Eocene of Western Antarctica): evidence of Podocarpaceae-dominated forests. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 200, 122–137, doi: 10.5710/AMGH.27.07.2017.3095.

Reguero M.A., Goin F., Hospitaleche C.A., Dutra T.L. & Marenssi S. 2013. Late Cretaceous/Paleogene West Antarctica terrestrial biota and its intercontinental affinities. Dordrecht: Springer.

Richter H.G., Grosser D., Heinz I. & Gasson P.E. (eds.) 2004. IAWA list of microscopic features for softwood identification. IAWA Journal 25, 1–70, doi: 10.1163/22941932-90000349.

Riding J.B. & Crame J. 2002. Alistair Aptian to Coniacian (Early–Late Cretaceous) palynostratigraphy of the Gustav Group, James Ross Basin, Antarctica. Cretaceous Research 23, 739–760, doi: 10.1006/cres.2002.1024.

Scott A.C. 2000. The pre-quaternary history of fire. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 164, 281–329, doi: 10.1016/S0031-0182(00)00192-9.

Scott A.C. 2010. Charcoal recognition, taphonomy and uses in palaeoenvironmental analysis. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatolog, Palaeoecology 291, 11–39, doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2009.12.012.

Scott A.C., Bowman D.M.J.S., Bond W.J., Pyne S.J. & Alexander M.E. 2014. Fire on Earth: an introduction. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell:

Scott A.C. & Glasspool I.J. 2006. The diversification of Paleozoic fire systems and fluctuations in atmospheric oxygen concentration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103, 10861–10865, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0604090103.

Sharman G. & Newton E.T. 1898. Notes on some additional fossil collected at Seymour Island, Graham’s Land, by Dr. Donald and Captain Larsen. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 22, 58–61, doi: 10.1017/S0370164600050987.

Svojtka M., Nývlt D., Murakami M., Vávrová J., Filip J. & Mixa P. 2009. Provenance and post-depositional low-temperature evolution of the James Ross Basin sedimentary rocks (Antarctic Peninsula) based on fission track analysis. Antarctic Science 21, 593–607, doi: 10.1017/S0954102009990241.

Uhl D. & Jasper A. 2018. Charred conifer remains from the Late Oligocene—early Miocene of northern Hesse (Germany). Acta Palaeobotanica 58, 175–184, doi: 10.2478/acpa-2018-0012.

Uhl D., Jasper A., Solórzano Kraemer M.M. & Wilde V. 2019. Charred biota from an Early Cretaceous fissure fill in W-Germany and their palaeoenvironmental implications. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie—Abhandlungen 293, 83–105, doi: 10.1127/njgpa/2019/0833.

Wildman R.A. Jr., Hickey L.J., Dickinson M.B., Berner, R.A., Robinson J.M., Dietrich M., Essenhigh R.H. & Wildman C.B. 2004. Burning of forest materials under late Paleozoic high atmospheric oxygen levels. Geology 32, 457–460, doi: 10.1130/G20255.1.

Willan R.C.R. & Hunter M.A. 2005. Basin evolution during the transition from continental rifting to subduction: evidence from the lithofacies and modal petrology of the Jurassic Latady Group, Antarctic Peninsula. Journal of South America Earth Science 20, 171–191, doi: 10.1016/j.jsames.2005.05.008.
How to Cite
Lima, F. J. de, Sayão, J. M., Ponciano, L. C. M. de O., Weinschütz, L. C., Figueiredo, R. G., Rodrigues, T. M., Bantim, R. A. M., Saraiva, A. Álamo F., Jasper, A., Uhl, D., & Kellner, A. W. (2021). Wildfires in the Campanian of James Ross Island: a new macro-charcoal record for the Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Research, 40. https://doi.org/10.33265/polar.v40.5487
Research Articles