Paleobotany in the Post-Genomics Era
Burnham, Robyn .
Hide and go seek: What does presence mean in the fossil record?
PALEOBOTANY seeks to reconstruct accurate and complete records of events in vegetation history and in plant evolutionary history. Doing so depends critically on accurate dating of sediments, accurate interpretation of structures preserved, accurate reconstruction of whole organisms or communities from the material preserved, and accurate interpretation of the interaction between past abundance and fossil presence. This contribution examines the interaction between past abundance of a target plant and the probability of retrieval of that species in the plant fossil record. By examining records of invasive species spread, island colonization, historical migration patterns, and succession in disturbed habitats, we can provide estimates of the likelihood of appearance in the retrieved fossil record of newly evolved and reasonably successful species. Adding to this parameter the lag in recognition and publication of a fossil as an important representative of a critical clade further constrains the probability of using fossils in testing evolutionary and ecological hypotheses. This last element is particularly relevant in areas of the modern world where plant fossil bearing deposits are either rare or inaccessible. Using parameters such as these should allow evolutionary biologists and paleoecologists to bracket not only time intervals but also geographic regions where the fossil record has a high probability of producing a fossil record that can be interpreted largely at face value. On the other hand, we should focus intense collecting efforts and training in areas where fossil deposits are present, but poorly collected and evaluated.
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1 - University of Michigan, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Museum of Paleontology, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48109-1079, USA
Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Date: Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006
Time: 1:30 PM