Discovery of an Entire Fossil Cycad from the Late Triassic of China

One of the frustrating things about fossil plants is that when the die they tend to break down rapidly and fall apart. Thus finding an entire plant is rare and therefore the leaves, stems, and reproductive structures are often found separately and provided different taxonomic names. Even at Petrified Forest National Park we do not know for certain what foliage belongs with our main types of fossil wood, although we do have isolated preserved foliage. A recent article in Chinese Science Bulletin (Springer) documents an entire cycad from the Late Triassic of China. This well preserved specimen includes the leaves, pinnae, stem, and a male cone as well as preserving their arrangement. An amazing and important find, unfortunately the article is just a note and not a full description and discussion. According to the article this is forthcoming.

You can download the PDF here for free until the end of November 2009 courtesy of Springer. The image above is from the article.

Wang, X., Li., N., Wang, Y. D., and S. Zheng. 2009. The discovery of whole-plant fossil cycad from the Upper Triassic in western Liaoning and its significance.
Chinese Science Bulletin 54: 3116―3119. doi: 10.1007/s11434-009-0384-z

Abstract - A recently discovered megafossil of whole plant cycad is briefly reported here. The specimen is collected from the Yangcaogou Formation (Upper Triassic) in Changheying, Beipiao, Liaoning. The whole plant is preserved intact on a sandstone slab, 89 cm long and 130 cm wide, including leaves up to 82 cm long and a male cone physically attached to the stem apex. Analysis on the morphology, arrangement and venation of leaf and pinna, male cone and its relationship with other parts indicates that the fossil is closely related to living Zamiaceae in Cycadales. This cycad fossil is hitherto most completely preserved cycad specimen including both vegetative and reproductive organs. Its discovery contributes much to our understanding of the morphology and evolution of cycads, palaeoclimate as well as palaeoenvironment.

Thanks to Randy Irmis for sending this on.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. The whole plant! Thanks for plucking the picture out for all to see.


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