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Exceptionally well-preserved vegetal remains from the Upper Cretaceous of ‘Lo Hueco’, Cuenca, Spain



Vegetal remains are considered labile structures that quickly become decayed in ecosystems. However, certain lignified tissues (woody plants) can largely resist decomposition, becoming sometimes exceptionally well preserved. At the Upper Cretaceous site of ‘Lo Hueco’ (Cuenca, Spain), those woody remains (trunks and branches) with resinous material in the inner tracheids and parenchyma cells that were buried rapidly under anoxic conditions experienced a low degree of maturation, becoming exceptionally well preserved. Those woody remains deposited under oxic conditions (sub-aerial or sub-aquatic exposure) were more intensely biodegraded and subsequently carbonified, partially or completely mineralized in gypsum and covered by a ferruginous crust. These two modes of preservation are scarce, with silicification or carbonification processes much more common, and both can be considered as ‘exceptional preservation’. Other vegetal remains, such as carbonified leaves, stems and roots, were collected in the site. The different modes of preservation depend directly on: depositional micro-environment (sandy distributary channel, muddy flood plain); and type (trunk, branch, stem, leave, root) and state (presence or absence of resinous material) of the material. The great abundance and diversity of fossils in ‘Lo Hueco’ identify it as Konzentrat-Lagerstätten, sequentially formed by alternated events of flooding and drying depositional events, but the exceptional quality and rarity of determinate vegetal macroremains preservation suggest that certain deposits of this site can be considered as conservation deposits.