Paleopalynology of the Nonesuch Shale

In 1977 I was sent by Elso Barghoorn, my PhD supervisor, to the UP to collect from the Nonesuch Shale. I collected from the ore-bearing strata in the White Pine copper mine, some drill core from the mine and from outcrop at Manido Falls on the Presque Isle River. The results were not very spectacular, although they did make it into a chapter in my PhD thesis and some images were published in Al Traverse's 1994 book, Sedimentation of Organic Particles. A NASA grant enabled me to re-collect from outcrop, but, more importantly from several cores at the Michigan State Geological Repository in Marguette in 2009 and in 2012. The results are totally different - the Nonesuch Shale contains abundant assemblages of well-preserved palynomorphs representing a unique window into life in lakes one billion years ago.

carbonate concretions in the section at Big Iron River

Sphaeromorphs from the Nonesuch Shale. Sample NON12-43

The descriptive, systematic work on the Nonesuch assemblage is ongoing, but here are a few examples of the microfossils found in the Nonesuch:

  • A poster presented at the Femor meeting at the Geological Society of London in 2012.
  • A paper on the cyanobacterial genus, Eohalothece Strother & Wellman published in 2016.
  • A 2015 review of pre-Devonian terrestrial biology, by Wellman & Strother included a plate of microfossil from the Nonesuch Shale.