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1 December 2000 Modeling fossil plant form-function relationships: a critique
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Abstract
Attempts to model form-function relationships for fossil plants rely on the facts that the physiological and structural requirements for plant growth, survival, and reproductive success are remarkably similar for the majority of extant and extinct species regardless of phyletic affiliation and that most of these requirements can be quantified by means of comparatively simple mathematical expressions drawn directly from the physical and engineering sciences. Owing in part to the advent and rapid expansion of computer technologies, the number of fossil plant form-function models has burgeoned in the last two decades and encompasses every level of biological organization ranging from molecular self-assembly to ecological and evolutionary dynamics. This recent and expansive interest in modeling fossil plant form-function relationships is discussed in the context of the general philosophy of modeling past biological systems and how the reliability of models can be examined (i.e., direct experimental manipulation or observation of the system being modeled). This philosophy is illustrated and methods of validating models are critiqued in terms of four models drawn from the author's work (the quantification of wind-induced stem bending stresses, wind pollination efficiency of early Paleozoic ovulate reproductive structures, population dynamics and species extinction in monotypic and “mixed” communities, and the adaptive radiation of early vascular land plants). The assumptions and logical (mathematical) consequences (predictions) of each model are broadly outlined, and, in each case, the model is shown to be overly simplistic despite its ability to predict the general or particular behavior or operation of the system modeled. Nonetheless, these four models, which illustrate some of pros and cons of modeling fossil form-function relationships, are argued to be pedagogically useful because, like all models, they expose the internal logical consistency of our basic assumptions about how organic form and function interrelate.
and Karl J. Niklas "Modeling fossil plant form-function relationships: a critique," Paleobiology 26(sp4), (1 December 2000). https://doi.org/10.1666/0094-8373(2000)26[289:MFPFRA]2.0.CO;2
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