The fossil record of Cunoniaceae: new evidence from Late Cretaceous wood of Antarctica?
Fossil angiosperm wood from Upper Cretaceous sediments of Livingston Island and James Ross Island in the northern Antarctic Peninsula region is identified as having the combination of anatomical characters most similar to modern Cunoniaceae. The material is characterised by predominantly solitary vessels, opposite to scalariform intervessel pitting, scalariform perforation plates, heterocellular multiseriate and homocellular uniseriate rays, diffuse axial parenchyma. Anatomically, the specimens conform most closely to the fossil organ genus Weinmannioxylon Petriella which has been placed within the Cunoniaceae. The presence of Weinmannioxylon in Late Cretaceous sediments suggests that taxa within or stem taxa to the Cunoniaceae might have been a notable component of the forest vegetation that covered the Antarctic Peninsula during the Late Mesozoic and may therefore represent the earliest record of this family.
Authors: Poole, Imogen, Cantrill, David J., Hayes, Peta, Francis, Jane