Phytogeographic implications of fossil endocarps of Menispermaceae from the Paleocene of Colombia

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American Journal of Botany


Premise of the study: Fossil leaves of Menispermaceae were previously described from the Paleocene of Colombia. Because of strong homoplasy of leaf characters, the fossils could not be placed more specifically within recognized clades, and additional data were needed to specify intrafamilial and paleogeographic relationships during the Paleocene. Methods: Fossil endocarps of Menispermaceae were collected from the Cerrejón Formation, the recently discovered Bogotá flora, and Wyoming (∼60 Ma). We surveyed the endocarp morphology of almost all extant genera, conducted character optimization, a molecular scaffold analysis, and critically reviewed the related fossil genera. Key results: Parallel syndromes of fruit characters have appeared in unrelated clades of the family according to current phylogenetic reconstructions. However, mapping selected endocarp characters across those clades that contain horseshoe-shaped endocarps facilitates identification and phylogenetic assessment of the fossils. Three fossil species are recognized. One of them belongs to the extant genus Stephania, which today grows only in Africa and Australasia. Palaeoluna gen. nov. is placed within the pantropical clade composed of extant Stephania, Cissampelos, and Cyclea; this morphogenus is also recognized from the Paleocene of Wyoming. Menispina gen. nov. shows similarity with several unrelated clades. Conclusions: The new fossils from Colombia reveal a complex paleobiogeographic history of the recognized clades within Menispermaceae, suggesting a more active exchange among neotropical, paleotropical, North American, and European paleoforests than previously recognized. In addition, the new fossils indicate that neotropical forests were an important biome for the radiation and dispersal of derived lineages in Menispermaceae after the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary.

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