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Rainforest conifers of Eocene Patagonia: Attached cones and foliage of the extant Southeast Asian and Australasian genus Dacrycarpus (Podocarpaceae)
- Wilf, Peter
- American journal of botany 2012 v.99 no.3 pp. 562-584
- Abelmoschus, Dacrycarpus, birds, conifers, flora, fossils, leaves, luteinizing hormone, pollen, rain forests, seed cones, seeds, Antarctica, Argentina, Australasian region, Australia, Chile, Fiji, Myanmar, New Zealand
- • Premise of the study: Eocene caldera-lake beds at Laguna del Hunco (LH, ca. 52.2 Ma) and Río Pichileufú (RP, ca. 47.7 Ma) in Argentine Patagonia provide copious information about the biological history of Gondwana. Several plant genera from these sites are known as fossils from southern Australia and New Zealand and survive only in Australasian rainforests. The potential presence of Dacrycarpus (Podocarpaceae) holds considerable interest due to its extensive foliage-fossil record in Gondwana, its remarkably broad modern distribution in Southeast Asian and Australasian rainforests, its high physiological moisture requirements, and its bird-dispersed seeds. However, the unique seed cones that firmly diagnose Dacrycarpus were not previously known from the fossil record. • METHODS: I describe and interpret fertile (LH) and vegetative (LH and RP) material of Dacrycarpus and present a nomenclatural revision for fossil Dacrycarpus from South America. • Key results: Dacrycarpus puertae sp. nov. is the first fossil occurrence of the unusual seed cones that typify living Dacrycarpus, attached to characteristic foliage, and of attached Dacrycarpus pollen cones and foliage. Dacrycarpus puertae is indistinguishable from living D. imbricatus (montane, Burma to Fiji). Dacrycarpus chilensis (Engelhardt) comb. nov. is proposed for Eocene vegetative material from Chile. • CONCLUSIONS: Modern-aspect Dacrycarpus was present in Eocene Patagonia, demonstrating an astonishingly wide-ranging paleogeographic history and implying a long evolutionary association with bird dispersers. Dacrycarpus puertae provides the first significant Asian link for Eocene Patagonian floras, strengthens the biogeographic connections from Patagonia to Australasia across Antarctica during the warm Eocene, and indicates high-rainfall paleoenvironments.