Theme PALEO - Paleobiodiversity: evolution of organisms linked to paleo-environments


Land plant biodiversity has undergone numerous changes since the Paleozoic. These fluctuations result from interactions between biological factors linked to the evolution of major plant groups and external factors such as paleoclimates and paleogeography. Rapid changes may also occur during global extinction events but are rarely evidenced in plant fossil records.
Our studies use two approaches, one based on the identification of taxa, the other on the morpho-functional analysis of plants during development. A large proportion of our studies are focused on Gondwanan plants.

Scientific objectives

  •  To study the systematic and morphological patterns of diversification of the major plant groups (lycophytes, ferns, seed plants);
  •  To test the occurrence of global events in the history of land plants using arborescent taxa;
  •  To investigate the morpho-functional adaptations of plants at high latitudes and characterize pre-angiosperm floras from Antarctica;
  •  To study changes in the fossil floras of New Caledonia between the Cretaceous and the Neogene.


Our studies are centered around two approaches, (i) a systematic approach based on the reconstruction of fossil plants and the identification of fossil taxa, and (ii) a morpho-functional approach based on the research of traits indicative of environmental constraints in fossil plants. A large part of our studies is focused on plants from Gondwana, the largest paleocontinent of the Paleozoic whose fossil record, however, remains poorly known.

Expected results

  •  A better understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of land plants in relation to environmental changes in the distant past;
  •  Reconstruction of the evolutionary history of New Caledonian floras in relation to the geological history of this part of Australasia;
  •  Reconstruction of past environments using plant structural and developmental characters to complete studies based on other proxies.

Scientific projects

Acronym Title Duration
MARCONBiotic responses of faunas and floras to abiotic changes in deep time2018 - 2019
HYDRO-PALModéliser la conductance hydraulique des premiers arbres ligneux2016 - 2016
CARBWOODTesting the environmental information provided by Carboniferous fossil woods lacking well-defined growth-rings: a high-resolution anatomical and isotopic study.2015 - 2015
TERRESGlobal perspectives on the terrestrialization process2011 - 2015

Major publications

All major publications 2019
  • Cascales-Miñana B., Meyer-Berthaud B., 2015. Diversity patterns of the vascular plant group Zosterophyllopsida in relation to Devonian paleogeography. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 423: 53-61. [Editor link]
  • Decombeix A.-L., Bomfleur B., Taylor E.L., Taylor T.N., 2014. New insights into the anatomy, development, and affinities of corystosperm trees from the Triassic of Antarctica. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 203: 22-34 [Editor link]
  • Gerrienne P., Meyer-Berthaud B., Yang N., Steemans P., Li C.-S., 2014. Planatophyton gen. nov., a late Early or Middle Devonian euphyllophyte from Xinjiang, North-West China. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 208: 55-64. [Editor link]
  • Gulbranson E.L, Ryberg P.E., Decombeix A.-L, Taylor E.L, Taylor T.N.,Isbell J., 2014. Leaf habit of Late Permian Glossopteris trees from high-paleolatitude forests. Journal of the Geological Society, 171: 193-507 [Editor link]
  • Meyer-Berthaud B., Decombeix A.-L., Ermacora X., 2013. Archaeopterid Root anatomy and architecture: new information from permineralized specimens of Famennian Age from Anti-Atlas (Morocco). International Journal of Plant Sciences, 174: 364-381. [Editor link]

Image Gallery