A liana from the lower Miocene of Panama and the fossil record of Connaraceae
Jud NA; Nelson CW
American Journal of Botany
PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Permineralized wood is common in the Miocene beds exposed during the expansion of the Panama Canal. We describe a stem with the distinctive anatomy of a liana and evaluate the evolutionary biogeographic and ecological significance of this discovery.\r\n\r\nMETHODS: The object of the study was obtained from a collection of fossil woods and fruits from a locality in the lower Miocene Cucaracha Formation where the formation is exposed by the Culebra Cut of the Panama Canal. Thin sections were prepared using the cellulose acetate peel technique and examined using transmitted light microscopy. We described the anatomy and compared it with that of extant and fossil species. We also reviewed and evaluated published reports of fossils attributed to Connaraceae.\r\n\r\nKEY RESULTS: The anatomy of this fossil wood matches the genus Rourea (Connaraceae). The stem is only 1 cm in diameter but vessels >200 µm in diameter also occur indicating the perennial climbing habit. We evaluated 12 other pre-Quaternary occurrences attributed to Connaraceae. Four are accepted three are rejected and we consider five unknown or uncertain.\r\n\r\nCONCLUSIONS: The discovery of this Rourea stem confirms the presence of Connaraceae in the Neotropics by the early Miocene provides the oldest evidence of the climbing habit in the family and contributes to our understanding of the flora of Panama 19 mya. Although the fossil record of Connaraceae is sparse reliable occurrences span three continents and indicate that the family originated as early as the Late Cretaceous-Paleocene and was widespread by the early Miocene.