Paleobotany in the Post-Genomics Era
Crepet, William .
Fossil Evidence: Requiem or Renaissance?
IT is axiomatic that the fossil record provides unique information relevant for understanding evolution and diversity. Specifically, it provides pattern through time that in turn allows tests for consistency with various evo/eco hypotheses and reveals minimum times of appearance of characters or taxa. The fossil record illuminates morphoclines and reveals extinct taxa that are mosaics useful in numerous ways within phylogenetic context. Changes in distributions through time, another correlate of the fossil record, yield insights into biogeographical patterns. And, finally, fossil evidence is important in studies of paleoecology and climatology. The stunning advances in molecular genetics comprising "genomics" have already had a major impact of how the fossil record is used and perceived. In fact, each of the above areas, once almost the exclusive provinces of paleontology, is or will soon be affected by genomics to varying degrees. Central to understanding many of the major aspects of evolutionary history is timing and thus, it has been one of the aspects of fossil history, and of our interpretation of it, that has received the most immediate attention and has been most dramatically affected by applications of new genomics data, i.e. new methodologies using variants of the molecular clock models. These are rapidly replacing the fossil record in instances where timing has important implications due to ease of use and because of the weaknesses inherent to fossil evidence. Nonetheless, models for estimating timing based on molecular data, while improving, remain controversial in spite of their ubiquitous applications. Yet the integration of fossil and molecular data is in its nascent stages and its vast synergistic potential of this combination is yet to be realized. The interface between molecular and fossil data will be examined with an emphasis on the value of fossil data and on the importance of the quality of these data.
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1 - Cornell University, Department of Plant Biology, 228 Plant Science Building, Ithaca, New York, 14853, USA
Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Date: Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006
Time: 4:00 PM