Andre Nel preliminary thoughts

Groups audience: 

draft project for an application to the net of theses, with money from Europe ...

Reconstruction of the Evolution of the terrestrial palaeoenvironments from the Ordovicien to the Pliocene through the study of the arthropods and plants, and their interactions

why plants and arthropods
- they dominate the terrestrial ecosystems since the Ordovician-Silurian - vertebrates are nothing in term of
        diversity and
        importance in the functioning of the terrestrial ecosystems
- they are clearly understudied, especially for the arthropods. An indication of this point is obtained through the fact that any discovery of a new rich outcrop with arthropods leads to the discovery of a vast majority of new taxa (species, genera, even taxa of higher rank). The situation is better for plants, but not similar to what happen with vertebrates

How to do it?
we need a general method for the study that can applied to the different clades that we shall study,
a method that is refutable, testable
a method that can put together at the end of the study all the results into a super matrix to obtain a general view

what tools are available?

- studies using the counting the number of taxa of same rank through the time
- studies of plant-arthropod interactions through the traces of activities
- studies of phylogeny (molecular and/or morphology) that, combined with the additions of fossils, give dating of the clades
- Wagner parsimony studies of palaeosynecology, viz. hierarchisations of outcrops or geological periods, based on matrices of characters "presence/ absence of taxa" (applied in palaeobotany for isntance)
- Wagner parsimony method (Wapum) giving hierarchisations of outcrops or geological periods, based on matrices of characters  "presence/ absence of taxa having a particular morphological structure"

-other tools ?, any idea?

What to do with these tools?

each specialist of a clade can have a student in thesis to work on the impacts of the changes in terrestrial ecosystems on the concerned clade.
       morphological/ molecular analysis with inclusions of fossils, studies of the fossils of the concerned clade (revisions/descriptions of new taxa), to obtain accurate dating of the clade and its subdivisions
      application of the methods of counting the taxa, wagner parsimony for hierarchy of the geological periods/selected outcrops by a matrix taxa-based, application of Wapum method ...
- the study of the interaction between plants and arthropods can be achieved through comparisons of results obtained directed on studies on plants and on arthropods, but also through studies of traces of activities (maybe it could be possible to apply wagner parsimony methods to the presence / absence of well defined traces of activities, which is better testable than the simple description of a ("nice") history (kind of thing done by Labandeira (without any aggressivity against this colleague who makes very remarkable works !)

The different hierarchisations of the geological periods based on the studies of the different clades can be compared (there are tools for this)
it is also possible to make a super-matrix and see what we can obtain ... (this could be the subject of a special thesis)

the advantage is that we create a net of searchers and students, working in parallel (just like computers) to obtain comparable results, because they work with comparable tools
for the students, they shall have to learn about field research and  preparation of fossils, studies of fossil and recent taxa, taxonomy, how to define morphological characters, systematics, molecular and morphological phylogeny, tools of hierarchisation, how to work in a net of research, ....?

with the basis of what is already known thanks to the last twenty years of progress in phylogeny and fossil studies, this project is feasable, many things can be done rather easily because we have already phylogenies and many recently described keystone fossils ...
it is very ambitious but we have the net of searchers in europe, Lebanon, maybe USA, china ....

Dear All,

In my opinion we have to separate methodological tool and tools like SEM Environ., Tomography, 3D recontruction and virtual dissection which allows us new way of understanding fossil morphology and functional morphology with application in biomimetics (a new paradigm for our research ?)....teaching and exploring  this new techniques will be an important step for our future students and each lab will have is own speciality  ?

sincerely yours


Dear All,

I was talking with officer responsible for such doings about the opportunity to apply for H2020 grants in Poland. It looks it is very difficult, as we need to have 50% of financial support from industry. Any subsubject which could be even remotely related to palaeoentomology was proposed by our Ministry. Is it the same rule in other countries?

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith