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Cretaceous and Cenozoic Plant Fossils and Nearest Living Relatives for Specimens in U. S. Collections.

This TROPICOS database provides digitized images and related information for Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic vascular plant fossils in key U.S. collections, and for their nearest living relatives (NRLs).  Fields are provided for the name, affinity, organ, geologic formation, age, location, repository, bibliographic references, and remarks.  Links to other plant fossil collections (e.g., STRI) are provided.  Images and data on the distribution, ecology, and literature for NLRs already in TROPICOS are available, and additional NLR information will be added as needed as images of fossils are entered.  The project will make conveniently available at a single site an unprecedented amount of information on the fossil record of plants for use in systematics (dating of divergences), biogeography (origin of distribution patterns), paleoecology, climate change, global warming, and conservation practices and policies.  It will also facilitate integration with similar data on fossil faunas for study of ecosystem evolution, and with geologic studies concerned with stratigraphic correlation and the reconstruction of depositional environments.  It is estimated that U.S. collections of extant and fossil organisms contain about one billion specimens and that only about 10% are available online.  The project is in response to an NSF initiative entitled Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) which seeks to “enhance the national resource of digital data documenting existing vouchered biological and paleontological collections and to advance scientific knowledge by improving access to digitized information (including images) residing in vouchered scientific collections across the United States.  The information associated with various collections of organisms, such as geographic, paleogeographic and stratigraphic distribution, environmental habitat data, phenology, information about associated organisms, collector field notes, and tissues and molecular data extracted from the specimens, is a rich resource providing the baseline from which to further biodiversity research and provide critical information about existing gaps in our knowledge of life on earth.”  The data will be coordinated with the Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio; University of Florida) project and with the goals of EarthCube (NSF Directorate for Geosciences).

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