Vessel-bearing stems of Vasovinea tianii gen. et sp. nov. (Gigantopteridales) from the Upper Permian of Guizhou Province, China
American Journal of Botany
Permineralized gigantopterid stems of Vasovinea tianii Li et Taylor gen. et sp. nov. were collected from the Upper Permian of Guizhou Province, China. They are slender and bear prickles, trichomes, and compound hooks. Internally, the stems have a sparganum cortex, eustele, and secondary xylem. The mesarch protoxylem tracheids have annular to helical thickenings, and metaxylem tracheary elements have scalariform and/or transversely elongated, bordered pits, while those of the secondary xylem have scalariform to circular bordered pits. Importantly, the inner part of the secondary xylem has large vessel elements with foraminate-like perforation plates. The hooks and other morphological and anatomical characteristics are similar to those found in gigantopterids, suggesting that Vasovinea is a member of the Gigantopteridales. The vegetative plant is reconstructed from permineralized stems and Gigantopteris-type leaves based on the anatomical similarities and intimate association. The eustele, secondary xylem, and other features support the placement of the order among the seed plants. Ecologically, Vasovinea is suggested to have been a vine or liana that used compound hooks to climb among the trees in a Permian tropical rain forest. The occurrence of vessels could have been an efficient adaptation to allow the slender stems to conduct sufficient water to the large Gigantopteris-type leaves.