Palaeobotany

Research


The research topics of the section are mainly part of the research activity „Deep time: Evolving Earth and Palaeoenvironments“ within the research field Biodiversity and Earth System Dynamics. Besides, our research projects contribute to the research activity “Taxonomy and Systematics” of the research field Biodiversity and Systematics.

Project: Ecophysiological signals of plant fossils as indicators of climatic and atmospheric change during the Palaeogene

During the Paleogene, a time span in Earth’s history 66 – 23 million years ago, major changes in global climate and atmospheric CO2 occurred. A trend of global cooling transformed a warm climate with high CO2 level and ice-free poles into conditions of substantial glaciation and lower CO2 close to recent levels. These trends should be clearly visible in distinct changes of various morphological leaf traits which are correlated with ecophysiological parameters. To detect and verify climate change-related responses of leaf functional traits, we will determine, measure and analyse fossil leaves stored in museum collections covering the whole Paleogene. Additionally, isotope data which provide information on ecophysiological parameters will be obtained. The data will be thoroughly analysed statistically to detect changes of parameters and/or correlations between leaf functional parameters through time. Thus the project will contribute to a better understanding of vegetational responses to global atmospheric changes in Earth history. http://www.volkswagenstiftung.de/de/foerderung/personenundstrukturen/forschung-in-museen/bewilligungen-2013.html

Project: The eocene amber type Krantzit in the context of the genesis of lignite deposits in central Germany and palaeoclimatic variations

The project is initiated to discover the causal relationships between (1) the characteristics of the lignite depositional area (coastal peat bogs), (2) the formation of a middle Eocene lignite seam complex, (3) the petrology of lignites, (4) the vegetation inside and outside the peat bogs and (5) the paleoclimate, to explain the formation of a lagerstaette of the rare amber variety Krantzit under the given conditions. This project allows for the first time the holistic reconstruction of a central German amber deposit, which is neither genetically nor biogeochemically related to the Baltic amber lagerstaette. Historical and contemporary collections of amber species and varieties, in particular of Krantzit, collections of plants fossils, and lignite samples will be analyzed in a new context and transformed into a geological space-time-climate model on the formation of Eocene amber types. This will significantly increase the scientific value of these collections and the visibility of the collection-based research at the participating museums of natural history. In contrast to all previously investigated Eocene amber deposits, the unique situation is given that the “Amber forests” (lignite bog vegetation) and the amber-bearing horizon (lagerstaette) are accessible in an extensive outcrop at the opencast mine of Profen.

Project group : Lutz Kunzmann, Franziska Ferdani (SNSD Paläobotanik), Alexander Schmidt (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen), Jochen Rascher (Geomontan GmbH, Freiberg), Claudia Niemz (LAOP, Lauta), Gerda Sanderson (Landesamt für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft und Geologie, Freiberg, Saxony)

Financing: project application submitted by Lutz Kunzmann and Alexander Schmidt to Volkswagen Foundation

Project: Diversity and disparity of the lower cretaceous gymnosperms in North Gondwana

This project has been running since 2003 and is a joint effort by PD Dr.  Barbara Mohr (Museum of Natural History, Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Mary Bernardes-de-Oliveira (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil). It investigates the conifers, gnetophytes, as well as enigmatic seed plants of the Brazilian Crato-Formation. The Crato fossil bed has shown to be a unique time frame in the history of the Earth. Numerous and previously unknown forms could be described and published as “whole-plant-taxa”. The Crato-Flora provides deeper insight into the diversity of gymnosperms within the corresponding time period.  New findings concerning the evolution of specific groups may be expected.

Selected publications:
Kunzmann, L., Mohr, B. A. R., Bernardes-de-Oliveira, M. E. C. & Wilde, V. (2006): Gymnosperms from the Early Cretaceous Crato Formation (Brazil), II. Cheirolepidiaceae. – Fossil Record 9 (2): 213-225.
Kunzmann, L., Mohr, B. A. R., Bernardes-de-Oliveira, M. E. C. (2007). Novaolindia dubia gen. et sp. nov., an enigmatic seed plant from the Early Cretaceous of northern Gondwana. – Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 147 (1-4): 94-105.
Kunzmann, L., Mohr, B. A. R., Bernardes-de-Oliveira, M. E. C. (2009). Cearania heterophylla gen. nov. et sp. nov., a fossil gymnosperm with affinities to the Gnetales from the Early Cretaceous of northern Gondwana. – Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 158 (1-4): 193-212.
Kunzmann, L., Mohr, B. A. R., Wilde, V., Bernardes-de-Oliveira, M. E. C. (2011). A putative gnetalean gymnosperm Cariria orbiculiconiformis gen. nov. et sp. nov. from the Early Cretaceous of northern Gondwana. – Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 165 (1-2): 75-95.

Research focus: Evolution of the forest vegetation in the palaegene and neogene of Central Europe (space-time-pattern, and factors)

This section has been working on this research project for more than 5 decades. Initially, it focused on monographic investigations of large macrofloras (Mai & Walther 1978, 1985, 1991).  Today’s main areas of interest lie in applied questions on palaeoclimate, palaeoecology, palaeosociology, and plant taphonomy. The Tertiary lignite coal deposits of Central Germany are extracted in large scale open-pit mines so it can provide a comparatively big working area. Contacts and collaborations with the mining companies Mibrag mbH (Zeitz, Saxony-Anhalt) und Vattenfall Europe Mining AG (Cottbus, Brandenburg) guarantee accessibility to profiles and outcrops for scientific research.

Selected publications:
Kunzmann, L. & Walther, H. 2002. Eine obereozäne Blätterflora aus dem mitteldeutschen Weißelster-Becken. – Paläont. Z. 76 (2): 261-282.
Junge, F. W., Dolezych, M., Walther, H., Böttger, T., Kühl, A., Kunzmann, L., Morgenstern, R., Steinberg, T. & Stange, R. (2005): Ein Fenster in Landschaft und Vegetation vor 37 Millionen Jahren: Lithologische, sedimentgeochemische und paläobotanische Befunde aus einem Paläoflusssystem des Weißelsterbeckens. – Mauritiana 19 (2): 185-273.
Kunzmann, L. & Walther; H. (2007). A noteworthy plant taphocoenosis from the Early Oligocene Haselbach member (Saxony, Germany) containing Apocynophyllum neriifolium Heer (cf. Lythraceae). – Acta Palaeobotanica 47 (1): 145-161.
Kunzmann, L. (Ed.) 2008: Excursion No. B2. Palaeogene and Neogene sites in East Germany and visit to the city of Dresden. Field trip guide IPC-XII 2008 IOPC-VIII 2008 Bonn, Germany. – 112 S., Staatliche Naturhistorische Sammlungen Dresden.
Kunzmann, L., Walther, H. (2012). Early Oligocene plant taphocoenoses of the Haselbach megafloral complex and the reconstruction of palaeovegetation. –Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments 92 (3): 295-307.
Kunzmann, L. (2012). Early Oligocene plant taphocoenosis with mass occurrence of Zingiberoideophyllum (extinct ZINGIBERALES) from central Germany. – Palaios, 27: 765-778.

Research focus: Evolution and diversity of the conifers of the cretaceous and cenozoic

This project aims at systematically recording and describing the fossil conifer inventory for the documentation of the fossil biodiversity within this group while recording the phylogenetic lines of modern conifer genera and families. Mainly focusing on European fossils, the analysis of pace-time patterns has helped to explain the laws of conifer evolution. Mutual collaborations with corresponding experts are used to work on specific genera.

Selected publications:
Kunzmann, L. & Mai, D. H. (2005). Die Koniferen der Mastixioideen-Flora von Wiesa bei Kamenz (Sachsen, Miozän) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Nadelblätter. – Palaeontographica Abt. B 272 (1-6): 67-135.
Kunzmann, L. (2007). Neue Untersuchungen zu Araucaria JUSSIEU aus der europäischen Kreide. – Palaeontographica Abt. B 276 (4-6): 97-131.
Kunzmann, L., Kvaček, Z., Mai, D. H. & Walther, H. (2009): The genus Taxodium (Cupressaceae) in the Palaeogene and Neogene of Central Europe. – Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 153 (1-2): 153-183; Amsterdam.
Kunzmann, L. (2010): Geinitzia reichenbachii (Geinitz, 1842) Hollick and Jeffrey, 1909 and Sedites rabenhorstii Geinitz, 1842 (Pinopsida, Late Cretaceous) reconsidered and redescribed. – Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 159 (1-2): 123-140.

Project: Reconstructing ancient atmospheric carbon dioxide levels using relict and extinct conifers

Set up in 2006, the collaboration between Jennifer McElwain (School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Ireland), Margaret Collinson (Department of Geology, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK) and Lutz Kunzmann (Senckenberg Dresden) is hoped to provide new data concerning the Tertiary climatic development. For this purpose mostly those long-living Tertiary conifer species are analyzed whose leaves provide stomatal density and indices as climate proxy data. The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI; Research Frontiers Program) has been supporting this project since 2009. The foundation funds a PhD student position for 3 years (at University College Dublin), for laboratory and field work as well as congressional participation. Recent comparative data are gained, for example, from experimental runs in environmental chambers.

Preliminary results:
Giraud, G., McElwain, J., Collinson, M. & Kunzmann, L. (2010). A method for measuring the stomatal density of a scale-leafed conifer. – 8th European Palaeobotanical Palynological Conference, Budapest, 06.-10.07.2010, Program and Abstracts: 102.

Project: Atlas for classification and distribution maps of tertiary fossil plants in Saxony.

In progress.