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Phyteral perspectives: Every maceral tells a story
International Journal of Coal Geology  (IF6.806),  Pub Date : 2021-09-13, DOI: 10.1016/j.coal.2021.103849
James C. Hower, Cortland F. Eble, Jennifer M.K. O'Keefe

At a symposium honoring the 50th anniversary of the University of Chicago, Gilbert Cady introduced the concept of phyterals as a means of distinguishing the actual plant fossils from the macerals composed of the fossils. In this sense, vitrinite and fusinite, while distinct macerals, are viewed as the same phyteral. In contrast to such process-induced contrast in macerals vs. phyterals, funginite, regardless of rank, age, or the type of fungus producing the structure, is classified as the same maceral and, by extension, the same phyteral. The vitrinite/fusinite maceral vs. phyteral situation implies that the fungal, bacterial, and faunal degradation of wood to produce the maceral macrinite is distinct from phyteral development. On-going biogenesis and diagenesis is generally distinct from the origin of the phyteral; the burning, consumption and excretion, fungal decay, etc., of a fossil does not produce a new fossil, just a different, perhaps unrecognizable version of the original fossil. More than just an exercise in looking back at a milestone in the development of coal petrographic nomenclature, the examination of Cady's contribution reminds us to be aware of the overprint of plant type, provincialism, geologic age, diagenesis, and coal metamorphism, among other influences, on the nature of the macerals, and of the immense paleoecological contributions to be gained from organic petrography.