The Salamanca Formation of Patagonia produces numerous exquisitely preserved Plant fossils from shortly after the End Cretaceous Extinction. These fossils provide some of the earliest known post-Cretaceous Plant fossils from the Southern Hemisphere, providing valuable insights into the recovery of these Plant communities after the extinction event.
In a paper published in the journal Annals of Botany on 4 January 2018, Nathan Jud and Maria Gandolfo of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, Ari Iglesias of the Instituto de Investigaciones en Biodiversidad y Ambiente at the Universidad Nacional del Comahue, and Peter Wilf of the Department of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, describe a new species of Flower from an outcrop of the Salamanca Formation at Palacio de los Loros in Chubut Province, Argentina.
The new Flower is named Lacinipetalum spectabilum, where 'Lacinipetalum' refers to its Lance-shaped petals and 'spectabilum' refers to its numerous perianth parts. These flowers are 8-14 mm across with lance-shaped petals and sepals, The number of petals varies from eight to ten. They are assigned to the Family Cunoniaceae, a group of flowering shrubs and trees which today reach their maximum diversity in Autrolasia, but are also present in Southern Africa, South and Central Asia and Southeast Asia, and with a fossil record which dates back to the Late Cretaceous, when pollen is known from South America and Antarctica and wood from Antarctica. Within the Cunoniaceae they are thought to be most closely related to the Schizomerieae, a group found today in Australia, New Guinea and the Cape Floristic Province of South Africa.
Lacinipetalum spectabilum specimens from the Early Palaeocene of Patagonia. (A) Flower in transverse view, showing 9-merous structure, sepals narrow-lanceolate, laciniate petals alternating with sepals, stamens (at arrowhead) and floral disc 2.5 mm across. (B) Flower in transverse view, showing 10-merous structure, sepals narrow-lanceolate, laciniate petals alternating with sepals, stamens not preserved, and floral disc 3.9 mm across. (C) Detail of sepal venation. Note three main parallel veins supplying the sepals and two faint intramarginal veins. (D) Close-up of a narrow, flabellate petal incised into at least eight secondary segments. (E) Close-up of a narrow, flabellate petal incised into nine segments. (F) Flower in longitudinal view, showing stout pedicel, shallow floral cup and superior ovary covered in fine trichomes (at arrow) and two free stylodia. (G) Flower in longitudinal view, showing stout pedicel, shallow floral cup, sepals (s), laciniate petals (p) and two stylodia emerging from the apex of the ovary (at arrows). (H) Flower in longitudinal view illuminated under epifluorescence. Note the two brightly fluorescing anthers and pubescent surface of the ovule (hairs at arrowhead). Scale bars: (A), (B) 3.0 mm; (C)–(E) 2.0 mm; (F), (G) 2.5 mm; (H) 1.5 mm. Jud et al. (2018).
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