The terrestrialization process: modelling complex interactions at the biosphere–geosphere interface, edited by M. Vecoli, G. Clément, & B. Meyer-Berthaud. Geological Society Special Publications, 339, 2010. No. of pages: 187. ISBN 978-1-86239-309-7 (hardback)
THE TERRESTRIALIZATION PROCESS: MODELLING COMPLEX INTERACTIONS AT THE BIOSPHERE–GEOSPHERE INTERFACE, edited by M. Vecoli, G. Clément, & B. Meyer-Berthaud. Geological Society Special Publications, 339, 2010. No. of pages: 187. Price: UK£75-00. ISBN 978-1-86239-309-7 (hardback).
J.H.A. van Konijnenburg-van Cittert*, * Department of Geology, NCB—Naturalis, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.
This special publication of the Geological Society on the terrestrialization process is a series of articles that is unique in not only dealing with the invasion of the land by plants, but also with the accompanying rise of major groups of animals such as arthropods and tetrapods, and last, but not least, with an organic geochemical perspective. The volume is a selection of papers reflecting the contributions to a workshop held at the Museum of Natural History of Paris in the autumn of 2007.
After a short introduction on the subject by the three editors, the first contribution by Janvier presents an historical perspective on terrestrialization studies. A completely new approach to the investigation of the origin and early evolution of land plants is presented by Versteegh and Riboulleau, who explore the physiological adaptations required by the transition from a fully aquatic habitat to a subaerial one seen from a geochemical point of view (i.e., the successive appearance of molecular biomarkers in the geological record). Strother et al. link the drop in pCO2 calculated from the GeoCarbIII model for the Palaeozoic to a stepwise increase of plant biomass related to three major evolutionary events: the origination of Bryophytes, the origination of vascular plants and the advent of trees. Steemans et al. argued that the migration of land plants from northern Gondwana to Baltica in the Late Ordovician was facilitated by the northward migration of Avalonia. The disappearance of the icy barrier that separated South America from the rest of Gondwanaland in the Early Silurian might also be related to the spread of land plants from northern to western Gondwana. Meyer-Berthaud et al. reassess the evolution of the tree habit with a focus on the Pseudosporochnales and Archaeopteridales. They discuss the constructional patterns and putative environmental needs of those two early types of trees, that evolved contrasting strategies for making tall plants, although only the Archaeopteris strategy may have impacted the Devonian environments significantly. Prestianni and Gerienne report five different types of seeds in the Late Devonian sharing the same type of mechanism for trapping pollen (an apical extension of the nucellus). The authors agree with the hypothesis that early seed plants preferred disturbed habitats and add a ‘shady’ context. Gerienne et al. report the first occurrence of the Aneurophytalean pro-gymnosperm genus Rellimia in Gondwana, which might represent the oldest known occurrence of the clade in the late Early Devonian. Although Early Devonian records of plants from Gondwana are scarce, this discovery indicates that Gondwana may be a good location to discover early lignophytes.
The next three contributions are devoted to Late Devonian tetrapod palaeoenvironments. Because of their diversity and preservation, Late Devonian vertebrate faunas from Greenland play a key role in our understanding of the evolution of early tetrapods. Astin et al. review the range of sedimentary environments present through the Celsius Bjerg Group in Greenland. Cressler et al. provide a revised reconstruction of the Late Devonian landscape at Red Hill, an exceptional fossil deposit in Pennsylvania. This ancient alluvial floodplain hosted a diverse fauna of vertebrates and invertebrates. Blieck et al. provide a biostratigraphical review of tetrapod occurrences in the Late Devonian, strengthening the recognition of two episodes of diversification. The first episode may have been linked with low oxygen concentration in the atmosphere during the Givetian-Frasnian time slice. Sanchez et al. applied palaeohistological analyses to track changes in food availability, palaeoclimatic conditions and/or the presence of predators in the habitat of the branchiosaurid Apateon from the freshwater-lake deposits of the Permian Saar-Nahe Basin in Germany. The last contribution by Laurin et al. presents an historical review of concepts and evidence of the habitat of extant amphibians as well as Palaeozoic sarcopterygians. They present evidence for a widespread tolerance of salty and brackish waters in Palaeozoic stegocephalians.
This book is a good example of multidisciplinary investigations. The editors express the wish that it may stimulate further interdisciplinary developments and use of new analytical techniques as well as contribute to new ideas and approaches to the study of terrestrialization. A book worth reading!