The Cuticle Database Project : an internet-accessible database of cuticle images

The Cuticle Database: developing an interactive tool for taxonomic and paleoenvironmental study of the fossil cuticle record.

by Barclay R., McElwain J., Dilcher D., Sageman B. (2007)

Richard S. Barclay ; Smithsonian Institution

Richard_Barclay2-1.png – Smithsonian Institution

Jennifer C. McElwain ; University College Dublin

Jennifer C. McElwain ; University College Dublin

David L. Dilcher ; Indiana University Bloomington

David_Dilcher.jpg – Indiana University Bloomington

Bradley Sageman ; Northwestern University

Bradley Sageman ; Northwestern University

in Courier Forschungsinst. Senckenberg 258. 39-55. –

The Cuticle Database Project is an internet-accessible database of cuticle images for identification of fossil cuticle material; PaleoCollaborator; Florida Museum; Field Museum; LM pictures and drawings of stomatal complex types; table comparing cuticle and leaf characters controlled predominantly by genetics versus the environment. –


Fossil cuticle usually preserves a perfect replica of the plant epidermis and thus provides an unparalleled record of epidermal micromorphological characters useful for answering a variety of scientific questions. Paleobotanical applications involving cuticle have focused either on taxonomic identification of species or on the assessment of paleoecological and paleoenvironmental conditions.

Taxonomic identification using epidermal characters has long been an endeavor of paleobotanists. The most conservative approach has been to assign specimens to morphotypes, while specimens with more characters have facilitated the establishment of new species in fossil genera, usually within modern families. In certain cases, epidermal characters have been combined with information from other plant organs to compare coeval floras from different basins.

Recent research has benefited from an improved understanding of the relationships between the morphology preserved by cuticle and the paleoenvironmental conditions where the plant developed. However, these studies are limited by the difficulties in the identification of fossil cuticle, in particular dispersed cuticle, which often provides the best temporal resolution for paleoenvironmental study.

To address this key limitation, we have developed an Internet-accessible database of cuticle images, referred to as the Cuticle Database Project (or Cuticle), which will facilitate the identification of fossil cuticle material through the development of an identification key structure. This database will help to facilitate identification of cuticle specimens and to advance attempts to distinguish which epidermal characters are environmentally controlled,

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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