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The Devonian Period: a time of major plant diversification: a symposium in honor of Patricia G. Gensel and her contributions to Devonian paleobotany.

Gensel, Patricia [1].

Early land plant studies- where we are, what next.

The Ordovician-Devonian is an especially interesting time for studying plant evolution since it is a time of major plant diversification and innovation of plant structures, yet it also is challenging given the initial simplicity and disparity in plant organization relative to the prevailing angiosperm- based morphological, developmental, or evolutionary paradigms. Building on the meticulous work and high standards of many earlier paleobotanists , considerable data from new discoveries or restudy of existing specimens continues to alter and enhance our knowledge of these early plants, some of which possess surprisingly modern features. Paleobotany as a discipline frequently reinvents itself, with an early emphasis on morphology and systematics giving way to broader questions of form and function, development, chemistry, paleoenvironment, ecology or evolutionary fitness. This process is not only generational but such a transformation may be seen repeatedly in an individual's research. It progresses from describing what exists, to thinking about what might also be, to asking why and perhaps how. This process is well illustrated by the varied contributions in this symposium. Current projects reflect this process- some involve re-examination of presumably well- known taxa (Sawdonia ornata sporangia), or new collections of known taxa (Psilophyton), others represent new discoveries (taxa with secondary tissues or novel anatomy). Studies such as these and others provide improved basic data and generate additional broad questions, most especially why do such advanced features occur in these early simple plants? Questions remain, including, but not limited to 1) since spore types still outnumber megafossil types, what is the extent of missing data?; 2) plant evolution must have occurred earlier than the megafossil record suggests, since the first appearance of trilete spores significantly predates the earliest known vascular plant, so what were these earlier forms like?; 3) how many variations on basic growth patterns really exist?; 4)how can we better understand relationships of stem to crown group taxa in many clades; and 5) beyond current knowledge, how variable were early environments, distribution of taxa and interplay between plants and their environments? These and other questions require additional investigation and will provide novel insights into response to climate change. As the progenitors of the plants that form landscapes today, such work is important in determining how they came into existence and how they coped. Continue to think and question creatively about early plants!

Broader Impacts:


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1 - University of North Carolina, Department of Biology, 403 Coker Hall, University Of North Carolina, CHAPEL HILL, NC, 27599-3280, USA

Keywords:
none specified

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: SY10
Location: Prince of Wales/Riverside Hilton
Date: Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
Time: 11:15 AM
Number: SY10008
Abstract ID:759
Candidate for Awards:None


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