An asterid flower from neotropical mid-Tertiary amber

Abstract

Fossils preserved in amber may provide significant palaeoevolutionary and biogeographical data regarding the evolution of life on Earth1. Although amber is particularly noted for its detailed preservation of arthropods, the same degree of preservation can be found for vascular plant remains2. Mid-Tertiary Dominican amber is a rich source for such fossils, and representatives of several angiosperm families have been described. However, no fossilized examples of the large asterid plant clade have yet been reported. Here we describe the first fossil neotropical flowers found in amber from a representative of the asterids. The asterids are one of the largest lineages of flowering plants, containing groups such as the sunflower, potato, coffee and mint families, totalling over 80,000 species3. The new fossils are only known as flowers, more precisely corollas with stamens and styles. We here describe them as a new species, Strychnos electri sp. nov, in the plant family Loganiaceae (Gentianales).

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Figure 1: Strychnos electri sp. nov. holotype Sd-9-47A in Dominican amber.
Figure 2: Strychnos electri sp. nov. in Dominican amber.

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Acknowledgements

The authors graciously thank K. Gandhi of Harvard University for help with Latin nomenclature and D. Bhattacharya of Rutgers University for comments on an earlier version of this article.

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G.O.P. provided the data and analysis of the amber fossils (measurements and morphological data), all photographs except the extant Strychnos species and was the primary author for the palaeontological parts of the manuscript. L.S. provided data, photo and text regarding extant taxa in the Gentianales and other asterids, evaluation of asterid dating times and was the primary author of the new species description.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to George O. Poinar Jr or Lena Struwe.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Poinar, G., Struwe, L. An asterid flower from neotropical mid-Tertiary amber. Nature Plants 2, 16005 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2016.5

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