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The Fossil Record of Eucommia (Eucommiaceae) in North America

Victor B. Call and David L. Dilcher
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 84, No. 6 (Jun., 1997), pp. 798-814
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2445816
Page Count: 17
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The Fossil Record of Eucommia (Eucommiaceae) in North America
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Abstract

Reproductive and vegetative remains of Eucommia from 25 localities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico document the wide distribution of this genus in North America during the Cenozoic. Autofluorescent elastic latex filaments bearing capitate termini are preserved in nearly all of the remains and provide conclusive evidence of their affinity to Eucommia. Four species of Eucommia are recognized on the basis of the characteristic samaras: E. eocenica from middle Eocene strata of the Mississippi Embayment in Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi; E. montana from early Eocene to early Oligocene localities in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and Montana; E. constans from Neogene rocks in central Mexico; and E. jeffersonensis n. sp. from the latest Eocene or earliest Oligocene John Day Formation of Oregon. Atypical specimens of E. montana and E. eocenica are the first records of two-seeded fruits for the genus. Eucommia leaves from Eocene localities in British Columbia and Mississippi are the first records of Eucommia foliage in North America whose identifications are confirmed by the presence of capitate latex strands. These leaves and a specimen from Oregon are referred to E. rolandii n. sp. Fruit evolution in Eucommia may have involved increases in samara size and symmetry, and reduction in seed number from two to one, perhaps as adaptations for wind dispersal. All fossil Eucommia samaras from North America are smaller and less symmetrical than those of the living species, E. ulmoides. Preliminary flight tests of E. ulmoides samaras and of models of the fossils suggest that E. ulmoides fruits are aerodynamically better suited for wind dispersal than the fossils.

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