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Proc Biol Sci. 2015 Sep 7;282(1814). pii: 20151045. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1045.

Fossil evidence for a herbaceous diversification of early eudicot angiosperms during the Early Cretaceous.

Author information

1
Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA najud@flmnh.ufl.edu.

Abstract

Eudicot flowering plants comprise roughly 70% of land plant species diversity today, but their early evolution is not well understood. Fossil evidence has been largely restricted to their distinctive tricolpate pollen grains and this has limited our understanding of the ecological strategies that characterized their primary radiation. I describe megafossils of an Early Cretaceous eudicot from the Potomac Group in Maryland and Virginia, USA that are complete enough to allow reconstruction of important life-history traits. I draw on quantitative and qualitative analysis of functional traits, phylogenetic analysis and sedimentological evidence to reconstruct the biology of this extinct species. These plants were small and locally rare but widespread, fast-growing herbs. They had complex leaves and they were colonizers of bright, wet, disturbance-prone habitats. Other early eudicot megafossils appear to be herbaceous rather than woody, suggesting that this habit was characteristic of their primary radiation. A mostly herbaceous initial diversification of eudicots could simultaneously explain the heretofore sparse megafossil record as well as their rapid diversification during the Early Cretaceous because the angiosperm capacity for fast reproduction and fast evolution is best expressed in herbs.

KEYWORDS:

Early Cretaceous; Potomac Group; angiosperm; eudicot; fossils; palaeoecology

PMID:
26336172
PMCID:
PMC4571693
DOI:
10.1098/rspb.2015.1045
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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