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One of the more important recent developments in micropaleontology is the use of plant spores and pollen for correlation purposes. These minute bodies are found in many sediments previously considered barren of diagnostic fossils. The classification of spores and pollen presents a complex problem because of the large number of types that represent almost every phylum of the plant kingdom and cover the geological time span from the Paleozoic to the present.
Classification under the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature is confusing because materials of known affinities are classified according to phylogenetic relationships and those of unknown parentage according to morphological characteristics. No clear-cut distinction is made in the nomenclature between fossils classified in the natural and the artificial systems. A natural system is not necessarily the most satisfactory for the stratigraphic paleontologist because of the vast knowledge of systematic botany required for its application.
If fossil spores and pollen are to be brought quickly into usefulness for paleontologic correlation, a system of classification that is easy to use must be developed. Such a system must have a minimum possibility for confusion in its application. It must be comprehensive enough to cover all spore types from the Paleozoic to the present. It should contain the elements of a key for quick and easy reference. Like the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature, its use should be universal so as to permit the free interchange of information on spores and pollen.
The classification based on morphological characteristics and proposed by G. Erdtman contains the elements of such a system. It must, however, be expanded in scope before it will be complete.
This artificial system is not intended to replace the natural system under the International Rules in paleobotany but it is intended as a practical substitute for use in stratigraphic paleontology. The fossil spores or pollen can be reclassified under the natural system when and if the affinities are ascertained.
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