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First cycad seedling foliage from the fossil record and inferences for the Cenozoic evolution of cycads


Erdei, Boglárka; Coiro, Mario; Miller, Ian; Johnson, Kirk R; Griffith, M Patrick; Murphy, Vickie (2019). First cycad seedling foliage from the fossil record and inferences for the Cenozoic evolution of cycads. Biology Letters, 15(7):online.

Abstract

The morphology of the early ontogenetic stages of cycad foliage may help resolve the relationships between extinct to extant cycad lineages. However, prior to this study, fossil evidence of cycad seedlings was not known. We describe a compression fossil of cycad eophylls with co-occurring fully developed leaves of adult specimens from the early Palaeocene (ca 63.8 Ma) Castle Rock flora from the Denver Basin, CO, USA and assign it to the fossil genus Dioonopsis (Cycadales) based on leaf morphology and anatomy. The new fossil seedling foliage is particularly important because fully differentiated pinnate leaves of adult plants and the eophylls belong to the same species based on shared epidermal micromorphology, therefore, increasing the number of morphological characteristics that can be used to place Dioonopsis phylogenetically. Significantly, the seedling fossil has a basic foliage structure that is very similar to seedlings of extant cycads, which is consistent with a cycadalean affinity of Dioonopsis. Nevertheless, the set of morphological characters in the seedling and adult specimens of Dioonopsis suggests a distant relationship between Dioonopsis and extant Dioon. This indicates that extinct lineages of cycads were present and widespread during the early Cenozoic (Palaeogene) coupled with the subordinate role of extant genera in the Palaeogene fossil record of cycads.

Abstract

The morphology of the early ontogenetic stages of cycad foliage may help resolve the relationships between extinct to extant cycad lineages. However, prior to this study, fossil evidence of cycad seedlings was not known. We describe a compression fossil of cycad eophylls with co-occurring fully developed leaves of adult specimens from the early Palaeocene (ca 63.8 Ma) Castle Rock flora from the Denver Basin, CO, USA and assign it to the fossil genus Dioonopsis (Cycadales) based on leaf morphology and anatomy. The new fossil seedling foliage is particularly important because fully differentiated pinnate leaves of adult plants and the eophylls belong to the same species based on shared epidermal micromorphology, therefore, increasing the number of morphological characteristics that can be used to place Dioonopsis phylogenetically. Significantly, the seedling fossil has a basic foliage structure that is very similar to seedlings of extant cycads, which is consistent with a cycadalean affinity of Dioonopsis. Nevertheless, the set of morphological characters in the seedling and adult specimens of Dioonopsis suggests a distant relationship between Dioonopsis and extant Dioon. This indicates that extinct lineages of cycads were present and widespread during the early Cenozoic (Palaeogene) coupled with the subordinate role of extant genera in the Palaeogene fossil record of cycads.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany
07 Faculty of Science > Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous), General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Language:English
Date:26 July 2019
Deposited On:25 Jul 2019 13:02
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 11:00
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:1744-9561
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2019.0114

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