Developing graminoid cuticle analysis for application to Beringian palaeoecology

TitleDeveloping graminoid cuticle analysis for application to Beringian palaeoecology
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsGaglioti, BV, Severin, K, Wooller, MJ
JournalReview of palaeobotany and palynology

Much of Beringia was composed of graminoid (grass and sedge) dominated habitats during the Late-Pleistocene, yet the account of the actual gramioids that were present is relatively vague. The spatial and temporal variabilities of palaeoclimate, mega-fauna. archaeology, and vegetation interactions could be significantly enhanced with accounts of Beringian graminoids. Fossil graminoid foliage is well preserved in permafrost sediments from Beringia and is available for identification using the micro-morphologies of the leaf epidermis (cuticles), which are often consistent with taxonomic identity. We present a scanning electron microscope (SEM) guide to the leaf cuticles of 38 graminoid species shown to be, or suspected of being present in former Eastern Beringian habitats during marine isotope stages (MIS) 2 and 3 (similar to.56,000-12,000 cal. yrs BP). We examine whether modern specimens have sufficient cuticle variability to identify fossil foliage. We surveyed SEM images from herbarium specimens for 50 quantitative and qualitative features on both sides (adaxial and abaxial) of leaves, and entered these into an interactive key program (Delta Editor). Individual species were unique based on the combined presence of 2-4 cuticle features. Replicate samples (n = 5) of 10 species were integrated into a cluster analysis and visually compared using a dendrogram. Overall, fossils that match modern specimens with a Gower's similarity coefficient of 0.80 or higher can be considered a reliable identification match. Several fossil graminoid specimens were compared and identified with our reference collection. Cuticle identification appears to be a viable method for future macrofossil analysis in Beringia. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.