A Review of the Multiple Uses of Fossil Stomata


Paleoecology, Ploidy, Paleoatmospheric Composition, and Developmental Biology: A Review of the Multiple Uses of Fossil Stomata

by McElwain J. C., Steinthorsdottir M. (2017)

Jennifer C. McElwain, Margret Steinthorsdottir


The presence of stomata is a diagnostic trait of all living and extinct land plants with the exception of liverworts. They are preserved widely in the fossil record from anatomically pristine stomatal complexes on permineralized and charcoalified stems of the earliest land plants dating back >400 million years to isolated guard cell pairs in quaternary aged palynological samples.

Detailed study of fossil stomatal complexes has been used to track the evolution of genome size and to reconstruct atmospheric composition, to circumscribe new species to science, and to bring ancient landscapes to life by providing both habitat information and insights on fossil plant ecophysiological function and life form.

This review explores how fossil stomata can be used to advance our understanding of plant, environment, and atmospheric evolution over the Phanerozoic. We compare the utility of qualitative (e.g. presence/absence of stomatal crypts) versus quantitative stomatal traits (e.g. amphistomaty ratio) in paleoecological reconstructions.

A case study on Triassic-Jurassic Ginkgoales is provided to highlight the methodological difficulty of teasing apart the effect of genome size, ploidy, and environment on guard cell size evolution across mass extinction boundaries.

We critique both empirical and mechanistic stomatal-based models for paleoCO2 reconstruction and highlight some key limitations and advantages of both approaches.

Finally, we question if different stomatal developmental pathways have ecophysiological consequence for leaf gas exchange and ultimately the application of different stomatal-based CO2 proxy methods.

We conclude that most studies currently only capture a fraction of the potential invaluable information that can be gleaned from fossilized stomata and highlight future approaches to their study that better integrate across the disciplinary boundaries of paleobotany, developmental biology, paleoecology, and plant physiology.

Cuticular structure and stomata of fossil dicotyledonous and coniferous leaves


A preliminary paper on the cuticular structure of certain Dicotyledonous and Coniferous leaves from the Middle Eocene Flora of Bournemouth

by Bandulska H. (1923)

Helena Bandulska

in Journ. Linn. Soc. (Bot.) 46: 241-266

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Stomatal density and 13C/12C ratio during last glacial-interglacial cycle



Trends in stomatal density and 13C/12C ratio of Plnus flexilis needles during last glacial-interglacial cycle.

by Van de Water P. K., Leavitt S. W., Betancourt J. L. (1994)

  1. P. K. Van de Water1,
  2. S. W. Leavitt2,
  3. J. L. Betancourt3

  1. 1Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.

  2. 2Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.

  3. 3U.S. Geological Survey, Desert Laboratory, 1675 West Anklam Road, Tucson, AZ 85745, USA.

in Science 264: 239–243. – Int. J. Adv. Biol. Res. Vol 5 (1) 2015: 23-28.-

Abstract/FREE Full  – Text – 



Measurements of stomatal density and δ13C of limber pine (Pinus flexilis) needles (leaves) preserved in pack rat middens from the Great Basin reveal shifts in plant physiology and leaf morphology during the last 30,000 years.

Sites were selected so as to offset glacial to Holocene climatic differences and thus to isolate the effects of changing atmospheric CO2 levels. Stomatal density decreased ∼17 percent and δ13C decreased ∼1.5 per mil during deglaciation from 15,000 to 12,000 years ago, concomitant with a 30 percent increase in atmospheric CO2.

Water-use efficiency increased ∼15 percent during deglaciation, if temperature and humidity were held constant and the proxy values for CO2 and δ13C of past atmospheres are accurate. The δ13C variations may help constrain hypotheses about the redistribution of carbon between the atmosphere and biosphere during the last glacial-interglacial cycle.