Chemotaxonomy as a tool for interpreting the cryptic diversity of Poaceae pollen

Julier, Adele C. M.; Jardine, Phillip E.; Coe, Angela L.; Gosling, William D.; Lomax, Barry H. and Fraser, Wesley T. (2016). Chemotaxonomy as a tool for interpreting the cryptic diversity of Poaceae pollen. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 235 pp. 140–147.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.revpalbo.2016.08.004

Abstract

The uniform morphology of different species of Poaceae (grass) pollen means that identification to below family level using light microscopy is extremely challenging. Poor taxonomic resolution reduces recoverable informa- tion from the grass pollen record, for example, species diversity and environmental preferences cannot be ex- tracted. Recent research suggests Fourier Transform Infra-red Spectroscopy (FTIR) can be used to identify pollen grains based on their chemical composition. Here, we present a study of twelve species from eight subfam- ilies of Poaceae, selected from across the phylogeny but from a relatively constrained geographical area (tropical West Africa) to assess the feasibility of using this chemical method for identification within the Poaceae family. We assess several spectral processing methods and use K-nearest neighbour (k-nn) analyses, with a leave- one-out cross-validation, to generate identification success rates at different taxonomic levels. We demonstrate we can identify grass pollen grains to subfamily level with an 80% success rate. Our success in identifying Poaceae to subfamily level using FTIR provides an opportunity to generate high taxonomic resolution datasets in research areas such as palaeoecology, forensics, and melissopalynology quickly and at a relatively low cost.

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