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Palynology, the study of pollen and spores, is the only known universal method by which marine sediments can be correlated with fresh-water sediments. Study of the history of pollen analysis shows a rapid expansion in the use of this technique from 1916 onward. The Royal Dutch Shell Group initiated palynological studies in 1938, and many oil companies now have palynological laboratories.
Pollen and spores can undoubtedly be preserved because the outer wall of the grains is extraordinarily resistant. The chemistry of this outer wall (exine) is unfortunately very poorly understood. Relation to terpenes or similar compounds has been suggested.
Although exact information concerning the distribution of pollen and spores by wind is difficult to obtain, there is considerable evidence that they can be transported very great distances. Transportation by water is important, and examples of Recent studies in the Orinoco Delta, Volga River, and Gulf Coast are discussed.
Pollen and spores can not withstand prolonged oxidation. The spore and pollen wall takes up oxygen (auto-oxidation). This photo-chemical process adds oxygen molecules to double linkages in the pollen and spore wall, with the formation of peroxides. Since oxygen is the main enemy of the spore and pollen wall, it is obvious that strata deposited in reducing environments commonly contain well preserved pollen and spores.
Determination of ancient shorelines, age determination of Gulf Coast salt, and palynological correlations in Venezuela, Canada, and France are examples of practical applications of the palynological method.
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