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Abstract Detail

Paleobotanical Section

Harper, Carla [1], Taylor, Thomas [1], Taylor, Edith [1], Krings, Michael [2].

Small-scale interactions and the microbial diversity of the fern Ashicaulis: a Triassic micro-ecosystem.

Most early paleobotanical studies focused on the morphological and anatomical description of macrofossils. Although these reports provided significant details on cell and tissue systems, they often ignored, or did not emphasize, microorganisms co-occurring with the specimens. In more recent studies of fossil plants, there has been a steady increase not only in anatomical description, but also in placing specimens in an ecological context. Ecological studies of modern ecosystems are often challenging to fully understand based on the complex network and interlacing of many biotic and abiotic factors. This challenge is even greater when interpreting fossils because paleoecological studies are limited to the evidence at hand and cannot be manipulated experimentally. Ferns are excellent ecological indicators and have a rich fossil history; they are often among the first plant groups to become established after perturbations and extinction events. In this contribution we provide detailed documentation of plant-fungal, plant-arthropod, and possible fungal-arthropod interactions in a well-preserved osmundaceous fern “root ball” of Ashicaulis from the Triassic of Antarctica. Thin section preparations show a diverse suite of fungi and other microorganisms throughout the peat matrix and within plant tissues. Three-dimensional focal stacking of images increases the opportunity to study interactions among the organisms. Initial surveys of the root ball indicate abundant fungal remains including forms suggestive of Glomeromycota and Basidiomycota, and several fungal fossils of unknown affinity. Within the root ball is evidence of parasitism, saprotrophism, and possible mutualistic associations. For other fungi and perhaps fungal-like organisms the biological interactions remain difficult to determine. Also within the matrix of the root mass are abundant coprolites of varying diameters and morphologies. In a single quadrant of a thin section, there are approximately 700 coprolites and it is possible to record measurements and to categorize the coprolites using multiple parameters. As a result of this synthesis, we plan to integrate the data within an ecological framework that includes interactions among microorganisms, fungi, and arthropod remains in a single fern specimen. This assemblage of information within the tissue systems of the root ball offers a means of documenting a microecological assemblage of a Triassic fern and comparing it with that of a similar system recorded from the Carboniferous.

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1 - University of Kansas, Department of Ecology And Evolutionary Biology, 1200 Sunnyside Avenue, Haworth Hall, Lawrence, KS, 66045-2106, USA
2 - Bayerische Staatssammlung Für Paläontologie Und Ge, Richard-Wagner Strasse 10, Munich, N/A, D-80333, Germany

osmundaceous fern

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 16
Location: Melrose/Riverside Hilton
Date: Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
Time: 8:15 AM
Number: 16001
Abstract ID:375
Candidate for Awards:Isabel Cookson Award,Maynard F. Moseley Award

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