Great resources on Paleobotany
The study of Paleobotany, involves the fossils of plants and plant parts found buried in rocks and sediment. The name is derived from the Greek words paleon, meaning old, and botany, the study of plants. The investigation of these fossils allows us to gain valuable insight into not only the evolution of plant life but life in all forms. It also expands our understanding of climates, diets and routines of ancient man. The student of this discipline will gain knowledge in kinds of fossils and the classification systems.
Kinds of Fossils:
Compression fossil – a fossil preserved in sedimentary rock that has undergone compression.
- Carbonaceous film – these fossils are traces of the plant left behind as a thin carbon film as a result of compression into sediment.
- Lake beds/charcoal – fossils at the bottom of lakes that have formed from plant matter compressed into mud and sediment over many years.
- Coal from carboniferous swamps – formed from partly decayed and compressed plants that grew in swampy areas
- Form taxa – often referred to as organ taxon, which is initially used to classify a particular part of a plant, such as: seed, leaf, and spore. This is used because the part is usually not found intact with the associated parts of the plant.
- Life-form taxa – a common classification, such as tree
- Generic-form taxa – more specific classification, such as: elm, oak, maple
The field of Paleobotany is the study of plant life of the geological past. This is achieved primarily through the observation of fossils preserved in rocks, coal and other geological formations.
Paleobotany seeks to identify historical climates and vegetation through the fossilized remnants of plants and preserved pollen. This has provided key information about global climate change. Combined information on glacial periods and changes in regional flora has led to a more complete picture of the cause and effects of these happenings.
Although Paleobotany is rooted in the past, the findings are relevant to the present and even into the future. One example of this is in the exploration of fossil fuel reserves which will help satisfy the world’s energy needs.
Paleobotany and Paleontology go back many years but interest in the field continues for many adventurous men and women today. Robert Bakker, one of the best known scholars in Paleontology today, developed a fascination for dinosaurs at a very young age after reading a Life magazine feature article on the creatures. His love for dinosaurs continues today with on-going research. Robert Bakker is considered a bit of a rogue among his colleagues for some of his hypothesis. One such belief is that the dinosaurs became extinct due to disease instead of the widely accepted thought that their demise was caused by a volcano or other natural disaster.
Meave and Louise Leakey, the mother and daughter Paleontologist team, run a family research camp in Kenya. In 1999 they uncovered a 3.5 million year old skull believed to belong to a new branch of early human. Today they still work to unearth finds to better understand the origins of mankind.
Further information on the Study of Paleobotany:
- Plant Science Portal shows a helpful chart of plant timeline evolution.
- University of Cambridge offers detailed timeline on plant life.
- St. Anselm College provides a timeline of the evolution of the major group of organisms.
- Wayne’s World contains a study of fossils of ancient plants and animals.
- Brandon University discusses the interaction between plants-animals.
- Warm Earth Environmental Research Group has a study on plant fossils as climatic indicators.
- Mongabay features articles on how climatic changes have affected the earth.
- University of Wisconsin has research on the remains of ancient plants and animals.
- Fossil Museum discusses fossilization and how fossils form.
- National Geographic features a profile of famed paleontologists Meave and Louise Leakey.
- Paul Sereno shares the biography of paleontologist Paul Sereno.
- The Houston Museum of Natural Science details the accomplishments of paleontologist Robert Bakker.
- Botanical Society of America is a source for publications, educational resources and helpful information for those interested in the field of botany.
- The Paleontological Association promotes the study of paleontology through publication of original research and field guides, sponsorship of meetings and field excursions, web resources and a program of annual awards.
- Science Magazine has original research relating to fungi and plants.