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Main Research Themes

Global Change Palaeobiology

Main Research Themes
Palaeontology has long claimed to contribute to the understanding of current global change by studying the geological records of past biotic change. We take this claim seriously and develop the emerging field of Global Change Palaeobiology, which aims at a more direct and useful application of the fossil record for predicting the future than previously. Global Change Palaeobiology assesses the response of organisms and ecosystems to past environmental changes, focusing on global climate change and changes in the chemistry of the oceans. The theme is similar to the new field of Conservation Palaeobiology but broader in (1) studying both the near time and deep time past, (2) assessing regional and global patterns, and (3) unifying ecology and evolution.
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Biodiversity Dynamics on geological time scales

Marine biodiversity
How did global biodiversity change in time and space and what are the driving forces of these changes? A large international group (Alroy et al. 2008) has revised the traditional view of exponential growth of marine biodiversity in the last 200 million years (see the figure). This new view is based on a large database which collects information of the entire fossil record. The Paleobiology Database allows applying modern methods of sampling standardization to reconstruct biologically meaningful metrics of ancient biodiversity dynamics. The database is constantly supplemented by an international team of scientists and not least by staff at the GeoZentrum in Erlangen.
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Macroevolution

Trilobite
Macroevolution is simply evolution at or above the species level. Biologists often have a hard time accepting that there should be any other drivers of evolution than those discovered by Charles Darwin, namely heritable variation and natural selection at the level of individuals. Palaeontologists have struggled to invoke multiple levels of selection to explain macroevolutionary pattern such as the Opens internal link in current windoworigin of new phyla. Irrespective of the largely theoretical discussion, macroevolutionary patterns are clearly evident in the fossil record and studying them at the level at which they emerge makes more sense than focusing at the lower levels. A good analogue comes from physics, where the random movement of individual atoms causes the predictable patterns that are subsumed in the kinetic gas theory.
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Carbonate Sedimentology

Deep-water reef debris limestone with corals (Desmophyllum cristagalli), gastropods and planktic  formaninifera (Calabria, S-Italy)
„Carbonates are born not made“, which means they are (mainly) produced by organisms. This simple phrase by Noel James highlights the main difference between carbonate and siliciclastic rocks.
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Palaeoenvironmental Reconstructions

Detail of a retiolitid graptolite (Gothograptus nassa) from the Silurian of Gotland (picture: Emilia Jarochowska).
Reconstructing past environmental conditions and changes is one of our main research themes. We focus on the development and dynamics of fossil ecosystems mainly by studying their fossil organisms.
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Taxonomy of marine fossils

Malformed (teratological) acritarch of the genus Visbysphaera from the Silurian of Gotland (cp. vgl. Munnecke et al. 2012, PPP vol. 367/368)
Fossilised organisms are important witnesses of environmental changes in Earth history. Their occurrences, abundances, and diversities often allow for far-reaching conclusions with respect to palaeoecology and/or climatic changes. In addition, some of them can be used for biostratigraphic dating. The basis, however, is a precise taxonomic classification, which, in Palaeontology, is usually based on the fossilised hard parts.
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Projects of the Section Palaeontology

SYNTHESYS GB-TAF-823

Thinsection of a coral
Collection based taxonomy and palaeobiogeography of tropical (Middle East) and cool-water (N-Europe) corals during the Paleogene
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SYNTHESYS DK-TAF-2562

Thinsection of a coral
Collection based taxonomy and paleoecology of azooxanthellate corals from the Late Cretaceous and Paleocene of the Danish Basin and Greenland
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"Mulde Event"

Podolia, Ukraine
The Silurian “Mulde Event” on the shelf of the East European Craton: chronology of events and causal relationships
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Limestone-marl alternations

Limestone-marl alternations
Extraction of diagenetically stabil climatic proxies in selected alternations of the Mesozoic: steering factors in small sized, cyclic sedimentation
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Silurian palynology

Palynology in the Silurian
Steering factors in the climatic evolution in Silurian: a combination of palynology and sedimentological-geochemical approach
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