Quantifying the structural relationship of leaf mass and petiole width of extant ferns : developing a proxy for fossil applications.
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Lemons, Casee R.
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This study developed a biomechanical model of leaf trait relationships in fern leaves. A common plant relationship is positive covariance between petiole width (PW) and leaf mass (LM). When LM and PW are area-normalized, petiole width measurements can predict leaf mass per area (LMA). The leaf economics spectrum shows that LMA covaries with other key plant traits, including leaf life span, photosynthetic rates, and palatability to herbivores. These correlations make LMA predictions a powerful tool in paleoreconstruction. Two hypotheses formed the basis of this study: (1) all levels of fern leaf hierarchy will hold the same allometric leaf trait relationships, and (2) previously established biomechanical plant models can be used as a paleoecological proxy for ferns. Results show that allometric relationships are not consistent within all levels of fern hierarchy, and a distinctly different model is needed to be used as a paleoecological proxy for ferns.