Premise of the Study
Fossils provide minimum age estimates for extant lineages. Here we critically evaluate Cantisolanum daturoides Reid & Chandler and two other early putative seed fossils of Solanaceae, an economically important plant family in the Asteridae.
Three earliest seed fossil taxa of Solanaceae from the London Clay Formation (Cantisolanum daturoides) and the Poole and Branksome Sand Formations (Solanum arnense Chandler and Solanispermum reniforme Chandler) were studied using x‐ray microcomputed tomography (MCT) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
The MCT scans of Cantisolanum daturoides revealed a high level of pyrite preservation at the cellular level. Cantisolanum daturoides can be clearly excluded from Solanaceae and has more affinities to the commelinid monocots based on a straight longitudinal axis, a prominent single layer of relatively thin‐walled cells in the testa, and a clearly differentiated micropyle surrounded by radially elongated and inwardly curved testal cells. While the MCT scans show no internal preservation in Solanum arnense and Solanispermum reniforme, SEM images show the presence of several characteristics that allow the placement of these taxa at the stem node of Solanaceae.
Cantisolanum daturoides is likely a member of commelinid monocots and not Solanaceae as previously suggested. The earliest fossil record of Solanaceae is revised to consist of fruit fossil with inflated calyces from the early Eocene of Patagonia (52 Ma) and fossilized seeds from the early to mid‐Eocene of Europe (48–46 Ma). The new identity for Cantisolanum daturoides does not alter a late Cretaceous minimum age for commelinids.