Huncocladus laubenfelsii gen. et sp. nov. is described from the early Eocene (52 million years old) Laguna del Hunco site in Patagonia, Argentina, on the basis of a compression fossil with cuticle remains. The taxon has several similarities with Phyllocladus, together with characters that are absent in extant Phyllocladus species but are otherwise typical of the enclosing scale-leaved clade. Consequently, Huncocladus is interpreted as a relative of Phyllocladus, possibly belonging to its stem group. This view is supported by a phylogenetic analysis of Podocarpaceae, which recovers Huncocladus as sister to Phyllocladus within the here-termed phyllocladoid clade (Phyllocladus + Huncocladus). Huncocladus laubenfelsii is the first macrofossil record of the phyllocladoid lineage in South America or anywhere in the western hemisphere, vastly extending its historical range and constituting an additional lineage shared between Eocene Patagonia and extant and extinct Australasian and South-east Asian rainforests. The disappearance of phyllocladoids from South America adds to the general extinction pattern described previously for southern hemisphere Podocarpaceae, associated with the family's low drought tolerance in the face of climate change (i.e. aridification). Huncocladus is the oldest record of the phyllocladoids, and it represents a new reference point for temporal calibration and biogeographic inference for the evolution of conifers and Australasian rainforests.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science