Reconstruction of Antarctic palaeoclimates using angiosperm wood anatomy
Fossil angiosperm wood is abundant within Cretaceous and Tertiary sediments on the Antarctic Peninsula. The wood, which represents the trunks and branches of large forest trees that once grew on an emergent volcanic arc, is exquisitely preserved by petrifaction with calcite and silica. Microscopic anatomical details of the angiosperm wood, such as the intervessel and vessel- ray pitting, are present which has permitted comparison with the anatomy of modern woods and identification of the fossil wood taxa plus investigation of the climate significance of certain anatomical features. The families Nothofagaceae, Monimiaceae, Winteraceae, Illiciaceae and Atherospermataceae have been identified so far. Growth ring analysis indicates that these trees grew well under a favourable temperate climate during both the Late Cretaceous and Early Tertiary. Studies of anatomical features show that some characters, such as vessel diameter and distinctness of growth rings, correlate with changing temperatures and water availability.