The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Palynology is the science that studies contemporary and fossil palynomorphs , including pollen, spores, dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs, chitinozoans and scolecodonts , together with particulate organic matter (POM) and kerogen found in sedimentary rocks and sediments.

The term palynology was introduced by Hyde and Williams in 1944, following correspondence with the Swedish geologist Antevs, in the pages of the Pollen Analysis Circular (one of the first journals devoted to pollen analysis, and produced by Paul Sears in North America). Hyde and Williams chose palynology on the basis of the Greek words paluno meaning to sprinkle, and pale meaning dust (and thus similar to the Latin word pollen).

Palynology is an interdisiplinary science, and is a branch of earth science (geology or geological science) and biological science (biology), particularly plant science (botany). Stratigraphical palynology is a branch of Palaeontology and micropalaeontology which studies fossil palynomorphs from the Holocene to Precambrian.


Methods of study

Palynomorphs (usually between 5 and 500 micrometres in size) are extracted from rocks and sediments physically, by wet sieving, often after ultrasonic treatment, and chemically, by using chemical digestion to remove the non-organic fraction (e.g. using hydrochloric acid (HCl) is used to digest carbonate minerals, and hydrofluoric acid (HF) is used to digest silicate minerals in suitable fume cupboards in specialist laboratories).

Samples are then mounted on microscope slides and examined using light microscopy or scanning electron microscopy.

Palynology uses many techniques from other related fields such as geology, botany, paleontology, archaeology, pedology, and geography.


Palynology is used for a diverse range of applications, related to many scientific disciplines.

Because the distribution of acritarchs, chitinozoans, dinoflagellate cysts, pollen and spores provides evidence of stratigraphical correlation through biostratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, one common and lucrative application of palynology is in oil and gas exploration.

Palynology also allows scientists to infer the climatic conditions from the vegetation present in an area thousands or millions of years ago. This is a fundamental part of research into climate change.


  • Moore, P.D., et al. (1991), Pollen Analysis (Second Edition). Blackwell Scientific Publications. ISBN 0632021764
  • Thanikaimoni, G., 1980 ("1978"). Complexities of aperture, columella and tectum. Proc. IVth Intern. Palynol. Conf., I: 228-239.
  • Thanikaimoni, G., (1984). Omniaperturate Euphorbiaceae pollen with striate spines. Bull. Jard. Bot. Nat. Belge, 54: 305-325.
  • Thanikaimoni, K., et al. (1999). Eighth bibliographic index to the pollen morphology of angiosperms (EN). Huitieme index Bibliographique sur la Morphologie Des Pollens d'Angiospermes (FR). 346p. Paper. Institut Francais de Pondichery ISSN 0971-3107
  • Traverse, A. (1988), Paleopalynology. Unwin Hyman ISBN 0045610010

External links

Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12