Revealing the diversity of amber source plants from the Early Cretaceous Crato Formation, Brazil
Seyfullah, Leyla J ; Roberts, Emily A ; Schmidt, Alexander R ; Ragazzi, Eugenio ; Anderson, Ken B ; Rodrigues do Nascimento, Daniel ; Ferreira da Silva Filho, Wellington ; Kunzmann, Lutz
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/17512
Abstract Background Amber has been reported from the Early Cretaceous Crato Formation, as isolated clasts or within plant tissues. Undescribed cones of uncertain gymnosperm affinity have also been recovered with amber preserved in situ. Here, we provide multiple lines of evidence to determine the botanical affinity of this enigmatic, conspicuous cone type, and to better understand the diversity of amber-source plants present in the Crato Formation and beyond. Results A new taxon of amber-bearing pollen cone Araripestrobus resinosus gen. nov. et sp. nov. is described here from complete cones and characteristic disarticulated portions. The best-preserved cone portion has both in situ amber infilling the resin canals inside the preserved microsporophyll tissues and pollen of the Eucommiidites-type. This places this genus within the Erdtmanithecales, an incompletely known gymnosperm group from the Mesozoic. FTIR analysis of the in situ amber indicates a potential araucariacean conifer affinity, although affinity with cupressacean conifers cannot be definitely ruled out. Pyr-GC-MS analysis of the Araripestrobus resinosus gen. nov. et sp. nov. in situ fossil resin shows that it is a mature class Ib amber, thought to indicate affinities with araucariacean and cupressacean, but not pinaceous, conifers. This is the first confirmed occurrence of this class of amber in the Crato Formation flora and in South America, except for an archaeological sample from Laguna Guatavita, Colombia. Conclusions The combined results of the cones’ novel gross morphology and the analyses of the in situ amber and pollen clearly indicate that the new taxon of resinous gymnosperm pollen cones from the Crato Formation is affiliated with Erdtmanithecales. The cone morphology is very distinct from all known pollen cone types of this extinct plant group. We therefore assume that the plant group that produced Eucommiidites-type pollen is much more diverse in habits than previously thought. Moreover, the diversity of potential amber source plants from the Crato Formation is now expanded beyond the Araucariaceae and the Cheirolepidiaceae to include this member of the Erdtmanithecales. Despite dispersed Eucommiidites pollen being noted from the Crato Formation, this is the first time macrofossils of Erdtmanithecales have been recognized from the Early Cretaceous of South America.