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The development of early terrestrial ecosystems

Edwards, Dianne and Selden, P. A. 1992. The development of early terrestrial ecosystems. Botanical Journal of Scotland 46 (2) , pp. 337-366. 10.1080/03746600508684794

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In this review of terrestrialization by plants and animals in the early Phanerozoic, the classical idea of a major mid-Palaeozoic event is discarded in favour of gradual colonization over a long time period. Four phases of colonization of the land by plants are recognized but their limits are often difficult to define. The first, of microbial mats comprising prokaryotes and later photosynthesizing protists (algae) but with no direct fossil evidence, extends from the Precambrian and may persist in environments unsuitable for colonization by higher plants and animals today. The second, based on microfossils (spores and cuticles) possibly from plants of bryophyte aspect (if not affinity) started in the Ordovician (c. 460 Ma ago) and ended in the Lower Devonian, but was overlapped by the third phase beginning early in the Silurian (c. 430 Ma). This consisted of small plants of axial organization with terminal sporangia probably allied to the tracheophytes. The advent of taller vascular plants of varied organization around the Silurian — Devonian boundary (c. 420–400 Ma) signalled the final pioneering phase — that of major adaptative radiations on land, culminating in the appearance of extant groups, in changes in reproductive strategy and in the development of complex vegetation structure. The animal record is sparser than that of the plants, but suggests an early land fauna in the mid-Palaeozoic which differed from later terrestrial assemblages in lacking herbivores, with the first direct fossil evidence for land animals in the late Silurian.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Q Science > QK Botany
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1359-4869
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 02:12

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