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Facies interpretation and geochronology of diverse Eocene floras and faunas, northwest Chubut Province, Patagonia, ArgentinaAbstract The Eocene Huitrera Formation of northwestern Patagonia, Argentina, is renowned for its diverse, informative, and outstandingly preserved fossil biotas. In northwest Chubut Province, at the Laguna del Hunco locality, this unit includes one of the most diverse fossil floras known from the Eocene, as well as significant fossil insects and vertebrates. It also includes rich fossil vertebrate faunas at the Laguna Fría and La Barda localities. Previous studies of these important occurrences have provided relatively little sedimentological detail, and radioisotopic age constraints are relatively sparse and in some cases obsolete. Here, we describe five fossiliferous lithofacies deposited in four terrestrial depositional environments: lacustrine basin floor, subaerial pyroclastic plain, vegetated, waterlogged pyroclastic lake margin, and extracaldera incised valley. We also report several new 40Ar/39Ar age determinations. Among these, the uppermost unit of the caldera-forming Ignimbrita Barda Colorada yielded a 40Ar/39Ar age of 52.54 ± 0.17 Ma, ∼6 m.y. younger than previous estimates, which demonstrates that deposition of overlying fossiliferous lacustrine strata (previously constrained to older than 52.22 ± 0.22 Ma) must have begun almost immediately on the subsiding ignimbrite surface. A minimum age for Laguna del Hunco fossils is established by an overlying ignimbrite with an age of 49.19 ±more »
Fossil fern rhizomes as a model system for exploring epiphyte community structure across geologic time: evidence from Patagonia
In extant ecosystems, complex networks of ecological interactions between organisms can be readily studied. In contrast, understanding of such interactions in ecosystems of the geologic past is incomplete. Specifically, in past terrestrial ecosystems we know comparatively little about plant biotic interactions besides saprotrophy, herbivory, mycorrhizal associations, and oviposition. Due to taphonomic biases, epiphyte communities are particularly rare in the plant-fossil record, despite their prominence in modern ecosystems. Accordingly, little is known about how terrestrial epiphyte communities have changed across geologic time. Here, we describe a tiny
in situfossil epiphyte community that sheds light on plant-animal and plant-plant interactions more than 50 million years ago. Methods
A single silicified
Todea(Osmundaceae) rhizome from a new locality of the early Eocene (ca. 52 Ma) Tufolitas Laguna del Hunco (Patagonia, Argentina) was studied in serial thin sections using light microscopy. The community of organisms colonizing the tissues of the rhizome was characterized by identifying the organisms and mapping and quantifying their distribution. A 200 × 200 µm grid was superimposed onto the rhizome cross section, and the colonizers present at each node of the grid were tallied. Results
in situ, this community offers a rare window onto aspects of ancient ecosystems usually lost to time and taphonomic processes.more » Discussion
The community associated with the Patagonian rhizome enriches our understanding of terrestrial epiphyte communities in the distant past and adds to a growing body of literature on osmundaceous rhizomes as important hosts for component communities in ancient ecosystems, just as they are today. Because osmundaceous rhizomes represent an ecological niche that has remained virtually unchanged over time and space and are abundant in the fossil record, they provide a paleoecological model system that could be used to explore epiphyte community structure through time.
Reaffirming the phyllocladoid affinities of Huncocladus laubenfelsii (Podocarpaceae) from the early Eocene of Patagonia: a comment on Dörken et al . (2021)Abstract We discuss a recent assessment by Dörken et al. (2021) regarding the affinities of the Eocene fossil species Huncocladus laubenfelsii from Laguna del Hunco (Patagonia, Argentina). We originally (Andruchow-Colombo et al., 2019) assigned this species to the conifer family Podocarpaceae as the first certain South American macrofossil record of the phyllocladoid lineage (Huncocladus+Phyllocladus), based on a combination of numerous macro- and micromorphological vegetative characters. However, Dörken et al. (2021) rejected the podocarpaceous affinity of H. laubenfelsii and considered it to be more closely related to the cycad genera Bowenia or Eobowenia. Their assessment was based almost entirely on two cuticular characters, with only superficial consideration of the abundant additional evidence available that included several diagnostic macromorphological features. We review the two characters mentioned by these authors, and other features, and find that their suggestion is contradicted by the available evidence, maintaining our original assignment. Critical characters include presence/absence of a midvein, secondary venation pattern, arrangement and general morphology of the photosynthetic structures, and morphology and disposition of epidermal cells.
Unexpected larger distribution of paleogene stem-rollers (AVES, CORACII): new evidence from the Eocene of Patagonia, ArgentinaAbstract Here we present the first record of a stem-Coracii outside the Holarctic region, found in the early Eocene of Patagonia at the Laguna del Hunco locality. Ueekenkcoracias tambussiae gen. et sp. nov. consists of an incomplete right hind limb that presents the following combination of characters, characteristic of Coracii: relatively short and stout tibiotarsus, poorly developed crista cnemialis cranialis, short and wide tarsometatarsus, with the tuberositas m. tibialis cranialis located medially on the shaft, and curved and stout ungual phalanges. Although the presence of a rounded and conspicuous foramen vasculare distale and the trochlea metatarsi II strongly deflected medially resemble Primobucconidae, a fossil group only found in the Eocene of Europe and North America, our phylogenetic analysis indicates the new taxon is the basalmost known Coracii. The unexpected presence of a stem-Coracii in the Eocene of South America indicates that this clade had a more widespread distribution than previously hypothesized, already extending into the Southern Hemisphere by the early Eocene. Ueekenkcoracias tambussiae represents new evidence of the increasing diversity of stem lineages of birds in the Eocene. The new material provides novel morphological data for understanding the evolutionary origin and radiation of rollers and important data for estimates ofmore »
Chusquea oxyphylla Freng. & Parodi, 1941, a fossilized leafy branch from the early Eocene (52 Ma), late-Gondwanan Laguna del Hunco biota of southern Argentina, is still cited as the oldest potential bamboo fossil and as evidence for a Gondwanan origin of bamboos. On recent examination, the holotype specimen was found to lack any typical bamboo characters such as nodes, sheaths, ligules, pseudopetioles, or parallel leaf venation. Instead, it has decurrent, clasping, univeined, heterofacially twisted leaves with thickened, central-longitudinal bands of presumed transfusion tissue. These and other features allow confident placement in the living Neotropical and West Pacific disjunct genus Retrophyllum (Podocarpaceae), which was recently described from the same fossil site based on abundant, well-preserved material. However, the 1941 fossil holds nomenclatural priority, requiring the new combination Retrophyllum oxyphyllum (Freng. & Parodi) Wilf, comb. nov. No reliable bamboo fossils remain from Gondwana, and the oldest South American bamboo fossils are Pliocene. Chusquea joins a growing list of living New World genera that are no longer included in Paleogene Patagonian floras, whose extant relatives are primarily concentrated in Australasia and Malesia via the ancient Gondwanan route through Antarctica.