A new Lower Devonian plant and the early evolution of leaves

Abstract

The fossil record suggests that, by the end of the early Devonian, vascular plants had diversified considerably but they were still relatively simple in their organization1–3. Most exhibit much-divided aerial shoots arranged in various patterns but lack clear differentiation into stems and leaves. I describe here a novel plant, discovered in the upper Lower Devonian of Gaspé, Quebec, Canada, whose anatomy is more complex and indicates a level of stem–leaf differentiation significantly more advanced than any known for trimerophytes or other taxa of this age. The presence of a lobed xylem, with mesarch protoxylem elements in major axes, and an elliptically shaped trace in first-order lateral axes in the new plant suggests that by the end of the early Devonian, the evolution of megaphyllous leaves has indeed begun, even though morphologically they were still much divided and non-laminate.

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Gensel, P. A new Lower Devonian plant and the early evolution of leaves. Nature 309, 785–787 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1038/309785a0

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