Premise of the Study: The fossil record is critical for testing biogeographic hypotheses. Menispermaceae (moonseeds) are a widespread family with a rich fossil record and alternative hypotheses related to their origin and diversification. The family is well-represented in Cenozoic deposits of the northern hemisphere, but the record in the southern hemisphere is sparse. Filling in the southern record of moonseeds will improve our ability to evaluate alternative biogeographic hypotheses. Methods: Fossils were collected from the Salamanca (early Paleocene, Danian) and the Huitrera (early Eocene, Ypresian) formations in Chubut Province, Argentina. We photographed them using light microscopy, epifluorescence, and scanning electron microscopy and compared the fossils with similar extant and fossil Menispermaceae using herbarium specimens and published literature. Key Results: We describe fossil leaves and endocarps attributed to Menispermaceae from Argentinean Patagonia. The leaves are identified to the family, and the endocarps are further identified to the tribe Cissampelideae. The Salamancan endocarp is assigned to the extant genus Stephania. These fossils significantly expand the known range of Menispermaceae in South America, and they include the oldest (ca. 64 Ma) unequivocal evidence of the family worldwide. Conclusions: Our findings highlight the importance of West Gondwana in the evolution of Menispermaceae during the Paleogene. Currently, the fossil record does not discern between a Laurasian or Gondwanan origin; however, it does demonstrate that Menispermaceae grew well outside the tropics by the early Paleocene. The endocarps’ affinity with Cissampelideae suggests that diversification of the family was well underway by the earliest Paleocene.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science