The cuticle database: Developing an interactive tool for taxonomic and paleoenvironmental study of the fossil cuticle record

Richard Barclay*, Jennifer McElwain, David Dilcher, Bradley Sageman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

44 Scopus citations


Fossil cuticle usually preserves a perfect replica of the plant epidermis and thus provides an unparalleled record of epidermal micromorphological characters useful for answering a variety of scientific questions. Paleobotanical applications involving cuticle have focused either on taxonomic identification of species or on the assessment of paleoecological and paleoenvironmental conditions. Taxonomic identification using epidermal characters has long been an endeavor of paleobotanists. The most conservative approach has been to assign specimens to morphotypes, while specimens with more characters have facilitated the establishment of new species in fossil genera, usually within modern families. In certain cases, epidermal characters have been combined with information from other plant organs to compare coeval floras from different basins. Recent research has benefited from an improved understanding of the relationships between the morphology preserved by cuticle and the paleoenvironmental conditions where the plant developed. However, these studies are limited by the difficulties in the identification of fossil cuticle, in particular dispersed cuticle, which often provides the best temporal resolution for paleoenvironmental study. To address this key limitation, we have developed an Internet-accessible database of cuticle images, referred to as the Cuticle Database Project (or Cuticle), which will facilitate the identification of fossil cuticle material through the development of an identification key structure. This database will help to facilitate identification of cuticle specimens and to advance attempts to distinguish which epidermal characters are environmentally controlled,

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Angioaperm Paleobotany and Paleoclimatic Reconstruction Contributions Honouring David L. Dilcher and Jack A. Wolfe
EditorsDavid Jarzen, Steven Manchester, Susan Jarzen, Gregory Retallack
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007

Publication series

NameCFS Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg
ISSN (Print)0341-4116


  • Angiosperms
  • Cuticle database project
  • Field museum
  • Florida museum
  • Fossil
  • PaleoCollaborator
  • Stomatal distribution
  • Stomatal frequency
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Palaeontology


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