Abstract

The last 50 years represent the most productive period in the history of paleobotany, as is evident from many external and internal signs of progress. Among these are the growing number of active paleobotanists, the acquisition and establishment of more paleobotanical collections, the ever increasing number of published papers, catalogues, and books, and the more and more effective application of fossil plant materials for stratigraphic purposes and dating. Refined techniques, discoveries of new and highly productive localities, representative of nearly all fossiliferous ages and of widely separated geographic areas, and the introduction of many new viewpoints and concepts have greatly expanded the horizon and depth of paleobotanical research. Integration of the results of related fields has materially advanced our understanding of fossil plants, their structure, mode of life, distribution, and evolution. The greatest advances have so far been made in regard to our knowledge of pteridophytes (ferns and fern allies) and gymnosperms (cycads, ginkgos, conifers, etc.). Intensive study of structurally preserved fossil material (wood, pollen, epidermis) of flowering plants (angiosperms) in addition to impression material is likely to result in many important and highly significant correlations and interpretations, especially of Mesozoic and Tertiary strata. Experimental studies in the newly established discipline of paleobiochemistry promise to yield even more spectacular results in regard to such elusive problems as the origin of life, the appearance of photosynthesis, and the nature and sequence of appearance of other basic biological processes.

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