Bruce Tiffney

Professor Emeritus

Office Location

Webb 1118


Angiosperm Paleo- and Neocarpology, Angiosperm Paleobiogeography, Paleobiology and Evolution of Land Plants, Plant-Animal Interactions in the Fossil Record


B.A. Geology, Boston University, 1971

Ph.D. Paleobotany, Harvard University, 1977


Assistant, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, 1977-1986

Associate, Full Professor of Earth Science, UC Santa Barbara, 1986- 2020

Dean, UC Santa Barbara  College of Creative Studies, 2006-2020

Earth Science Newsletter 2020 Retirement Article


I address the evolutionary biology and systematics of land plants through the study of their morphology, anatomy and biogeographic distribution in the fossil record. My particular area of specialization is the evolution of angiosperms as discerned by their fossil fruits and seeds. I have worked with fossils from northern Africa, eastern North America, and most recently, from the auriferous gravels of California.  Comparative study of these fossils, coupled with previously published material, allows the reconstruction of patterns of evolution within lineages. Additionally, study of the historical distribution of lineages, coupled with changes in climate and continental positions, permits the creation and testing of hypotheses of the biogeographic origin of the modern flora of the Northern Hemisphere. Other areas of research interest include the patterns and presumed mechanisms influencing the diversification of land plants, and the interaction of land plants and vertebrate herbivores and dispersal agents through time. 


Select publications


Tiffney, B. H.  1977. Upper Cretaceous angiosperm flower from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.  Nature 265: 136-137.


Knoll, A. H., K. J. Niklas and B. H. Tiffney. 1979.  Phanerozoic land plant diversity in North America.  Science 206: 1400-1402.


Niklas, K. J., B. H. Tiffney and A. H. Knoll.  1980. Apparent changes in the diversity of fossil plants.  IN:  Evolutionary Biology, Volume 12,

edited by W. C. Steere, M. K. Hecht and B. Wallace.  Plenum Pub., N. Y.  Pp. 1-89.


Tiffney, B. H.  1984. Seed size, dispersal syndromes, and the rise of the angiosperms.  Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard.  71:551-576.


Tiffney, B. H.  1985. Perspectives on the origin of the floristic similarity between eastern Asia and eastern North America. 

J. Arnold Arboretum 66: 73-94.


Tiffney, B. H.  1985. The Eocene North Atlantic land bridge and its importance in Tertiary and modern phytogeography  of the Northern

Hemisphere. J. Arnold Arboretum 66: 243-273.


  Tiffney, B. H. and K. J. Niklas.  1985.  Clonal growth in land plants - A paleobotanical perspective.  IN:  Population Biology and

Evolution of Clonal Organisms, edited by J. B. C. Jackson, L. W. Buss and R. Cook. Yale University Press.  Pp. 35-66.


Wing, S. L. and B. H. Tiffney.  1987. The reciprocal interaction of angiosperm evolution and tetrapod herbivory. Rev. Palaeobotany & Palynology 50:179-210.


Valentine, J. W., B. H. Tiffney and J. J. Sepkoski, Jr. 1991.    Evolutionary dynamics of plants and animals:  A comparative approach. Palaios 6: 81-88.


Tiffney, B. H.   1992. The role of vertebrate herbivory in the evolution of land plants.     The Palaeobotanist 41:87-97.


Tiffney, B. H., & K. J. Niklas.  1994. The quantification of plant Biodiversity through time.  Phil. Trans. Royal Soc., London, Ser. B 345: 35-44.


Tiffney, B. H., & S. J. Mazer.  1995. Angiosperm growth habit, dispersal and diversification reconsidered.  Evolutionary Ecology 9: 93-117.


Tiffney, B. H. & K. K. Haggard.  1996. Fruits of Mastixioideae (Cornaceae) from the Paleogene of western North America. Rev.

Palaeobotany & Palynology 92:29-54.


Tiffney, B. H. 1999. Fossil fruit and seed flora from the early Eocene Fisher/Sullivan site.  In: Early Eocene Vertebrates and plants from the

Fisher/Sullivan Site  (Nanjemoy Formation) Stafford County, Virginia. Virginia Div. Mineral Resources Pub 152: 139-159.


Tiffney, B. H., 2000.  Geographic and climatic influences on the Cretaceous and Tertiary history of Euramerican Floristic

History. Acta Universitatis Carolinae-Geologica 44: 5-16.


Tiffney B. H, Manchester S. R. 2001.  The use of geological and paleontological evidence in evaluating plant phylogeographic

hypotheses in the Northern Hemisphere Tertiary. Int. J. Plant Sciences 162: Suppl. 6, S3 -S127.


Tiffney B. H.  2004. Vertebrate dispersal of seed plants through time. Annual Reviews of Systematics and Ecology 35: 1-29.


Tiffney, B. H. 2008. Phylogeography, Fossils, and Northern Hemisphere Biogeography: The Role of Physiological Uniformitarianism.

Ann. Missouri Bot. Garden 95: 135-143.


Taylor, D. W., S. Hu, B. H. Tiffney. 2012.  Fossil floral and fruit evidence for the evolution of unusual developmental characters in Fagales. Bot. J.

Linn. Soc. 168: 353-376.


Stull, G. W., F. Herrera, S. R. Manchester, C. Jaramillo, B. H. Tiffney. 2012.  Fruits of an “Old World” tribe (Phytocreneae: Icacinaceae) from the Paleogene

of North and South America. Syst. Bot. 37: 784-794.


Barrón, E., A. Anaveryanova, A. Kvacek, A. Momohara, K. Pigg, S. Popova, J. M.Postigo-Mijarra, B. H. Tiffney, T. Utscher, Z. K. Zhou. 2017. The fossil record

of Quercus.  In:  Oaks: Physiological Ecology. Exploring the functional diversity of the genius Quercus, edited by E. Gil-Pelegrijn, J.J. Peguero-Pina

and D. Sancho-Knapik. Springer Verlag Book Series – Tree Physiology Vol. 7 . Pages 39-105.  





Earth 111 / EEMB 136 - Principles of Paleobiology

Earth 141 / EEMB 137 - Plant Paleobiology