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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2018 / MORPHYLL: A database of fossil leaves and their morphological traits

Christopher Traiser, Anita Roth-Nebelsick, Michaela Grein, Johanna Kovar-Eder, Lutz Kunzmann, Karolin Moraweck, Jörg Lange, Jiří Kvaček, Christoph Neinhuis, Annelise Folie, Dario De Franceschi, Andreas Kroh, Cyrille Prestianni, Markus Poschmann and Michael Wuttke (2018)

MORPHYLL: A database of fossil leaves and their morphological traits

Palaeontologia Electronica, 21(1):1-17.

Morphometric characters of fossil leaves such as size and shape are important and widely used sources for reconstructing palaeoenvironments. Various tools, including CLAMP or Leaf Margin Analysis, utilize leaf traits as input parameters for estimating palaeoclimate, mostly based on correlations between traits and climate parameters of extant plants. During the last few years, the scope of information extracted from the morphology of fossil leaves has been further expanded by including leaf economics, which describe correlations between functional leaf traits and ecological strategies. The amount and quality of available data are essential for a successful palaeoecological analysis utilizing leaf traits. Here, the database MORPHYLL is described. This database is devised to offer a web-based resource for fossil leaf trait data. For this purpose, fossil leaves from various collections were digitized and morphometric traits extracted from leaf outlines. Besides metadata such as accession number, repository, fossil site or taxonomic information (for identified specimens), MORPHYLL offers queries for several morphometric parameters and derived ecophysiological traits (e.g., leaf mass per area). Currently, the database contains data from about 6000 fossil leaves from sites in Central Europe, spanning almost the entire Paleogene and part of the early Neogene. The application potential of the database is demonstrated by conducting some exemplary analyses of leaf traits for the Paleocene, Eocene and Oligocene, with the results indicating changes of mean leaf traits through time. For example, the results show leaf mass per area to peak during the Eocene, which is in accordance with general climate development during the Paleogene.
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