Maggot fern confusion
deutsche Version

After the small silicified pinnules from the big fronds of some tee fern, found before 1800 in the Permian Döhlen basin near Dresden,
had been thought to be woodlice or maggots, their vegetable nature was recognised, and they got the name Scolecopteris elegans [1], which means Delicate Maggot Fern. This essentially ended the confusion, but not completely as meanwhile more the two dozen maggot fern species have been described worldwide [2]. Concerning the Döhlen basin, information was contradictory. Disregarding obvious structural differences, all finds were ascribed to the same species [3,4] but with the caution that "... nevertheless the suspicion of the existence of additional ferns must always be kept up" [3] p.74. This advice had been obsolete even then because there was no doubt about the existence of other ferns. Pinnules with synangia borne on thick long pedicels as in [5], Fig.8, had been there in [6] but had not been noticed.
One maggot fern sample
from Döhlen basin, offered as a typical specimen of  Sc. elegans [4], has been recognised, after careful inspection, as another species, as shown in the contribution Maggot Fern Dispute. The present contribution provides additional evidence.
maggot fern synangiasporangiasporangium
Figs.1-3:
"Maggot Fern"
synangia with big pedicels:
not Sc. elegans,
possibly Sturiella intermedia [2].
Picture heights:
1.5mm, 2mm.


The synangia pedicels, which are rather long compared to the very short pedicels of Sc. elegans [5], are distinctly visible here. Obviously only very few of the randomly positioned and oriented synangia show their pedicels well on the cut face. In Fig.3, for example, the synangium on the right has been cut such that no pedicel is seen.
Apart from the big pedicels as evidence for a different species, a few additional details are given here. 

maggot fern synangia
Fig.4: Synangia on the surface of the same sample as in Fig.1-3.
Picture height 2mm.

The cross-sections of the synangia on the raw surface (Fig.4) show that here, like with Sc. elegans, the number of sporangia and the symmetry of their arrangement are no characteristic features. (This has been known since the early work by E. Zenker [1] but vain talk about symmetry had entered into the maggot fern literature nevertheless.)

With knowledge about the related pedicels lacking, a line drawing of the synangia in Fig.4 had been offered as Sc. elegans in 2002 [7], 2011 [5], 2018 [8]. In this sample the big pedicels were noticed by careful investigation as late as 2019. Apparently the synangia and everything else in this sample must be ascribed to another species now, contrary to the claim by M. Barthel that everything "can doubtless be ascribed to Scolecopteris elegans" [4]. That claim has proved not justified. Hence, the 8 pictures in [4], p.227, may serve as illustrations of another fern, probably Sturiella intermedia [2], also known as Scolecopteris intermedia [9], which, apart from the pedicels, is rather similar to Sc. elegans and therefore might keep the popular name "maggot fern".
Possibly more of the fossil fern pinnules from the type locality thought to represent the classical maggot fern have to be reconsidered.
Sample: Bu8/18, found by Ulrich Wagner (Dresden) at the type locality of Sc. elegans in 1997.

H.-J. Weiss
   2019    

[1]  E. Zenker: Scolecopteris elegans, ein neues fossiles Farrngewächs mit Fructification. Linnaea 11(1837), 509-12.

[2]  M.A. Millay: A review of permineralized Euramerican Carboniferous tree ferns. Rev. Palaeobot. Palyn. 95(1997), 191-209.
[3]  M. Barthel: Die Madensteine vom Windberg. in: U. Dernbach, W.D. Tidwell: Geheimnisse versteinerter Pflanzen. D'ORO 2002. S.65-77.
[4]  M. Barthel: Die Rotliegendflora der Döhlen-Formation. Geologica Saxonica 61 (2) 2015 (2016 erschienen), 105-238.    S.226
[5]  H.-J. Weiss: Scolecopteris synangium stalks – real and illusory
. www.chertnews.de, Permian Chert News 4.
[6]  M. Barthel: Pecopteris-Arten E.F. v. Schlotheims aus Typuslokalitäten in der DDR, Schriftenreihe geol. Wiss. Berlin 16(1980), 275-304.

[7]  H.-J. Weiss: Beobachtungen zur Variabilität der Synangien des Madenfarns. Veröff. Museum f. Naturkunde Chemnitz 25(2002), 57-62.
[8]  H.-J. Weiss: Sächsische Madensteine - ein reiches Forschungsfeld, nicht gut bestellt.
www.chertnews.de, Permian Chert News 19.
[9]  A. Lesnikowska, J. Galtier: A reconsideration of four genera of permineralized Marattiales ... Rev. Pal. Pal. 67(1991), 141-152.

Scolecopteris pinnule cross-section, Sardinia Permian Chert News 26
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