The robustness of some Carboniferous fossil leaf venation networks to simulated damage

Mander, Luke and Williams, Hywel T. P. (2024). The robustness of some Carboniferous fossil leaf venation networks to simulated damage. Royal Society Open Science, 11(5), article no. 240086.



Biological networks vary widely in their architecture and functional properties. Branching networks are good for transportation efficiency, while networks including loops offer good resistance to damage, and examples of these two topologies are found in leaf venation networks. The first plants with reticulate (loopy) leaf venation evolved in the Pennsylvanian of the Carboniferous, but the responses of different venation network architectures from this time period to damage are currently largely unknown. Here we address this issue with a computational analysis of venation network robustness that is focused on fossil leaves from the Pennsylvanian. We attacked fossil venation networks with simulated damage to individual vein segments and leaf blades. For both types of attack, branched venation networks are the least robust to damage, with greater robustness shown by the net-like reticulate networks found in the Pennsylvanian. A living angiosperm Betula alba was the most robust in our analysis. This may highlight a role for resistance to damage in the evolution of reticulate leaf venation in the Carboniferous, but further work is needed to answer the broader question of why reticulate leaf venation first evolved in the Pennsylvanian.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions