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Title: Suberin, the hallmark constituent of bark, identified in a 45-million-year-old monkeyhair tree (Coumoxylon hartigii) from Geiseltal, Germany

Suberin, a complex biopolymer, forms a water- and gas-insoluble barrier that protects the inner tissues of plants. It is abundant in tree bark, particularly in the cork oakQuercus suber. Anatomically, fossil bark has been described since the Devonian. However, its distinctive constituent suberin has not yet been reported from the fossil record. Here we present unambiguous chemical evidence for intact suberin from the bark of a middle Eocene monkeyhair tree from Geiseltal, eastern Germany. High-performance liquid chromatography coupled to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (HPLC–ESI-MS) detected constituents of suberin in the outer layer the fossil monkeyhair tree, which confirms previous morphological interpretation of this tissue as bark, and chemically differentiates this layer from the two tissues of the inner layer. Notably, this is the first study with compelling chemical evidence for suberin in fossil bark. Fluorescence microspectroscopy additionally supports the presence of suberin. Fossilization conditions in the Eocene Geiseltal deposit were likely mild, with low moisture and temperatures, contributing to the remarkable preservation of bark and inner laticifer mats of the monkeyhair trees growing there 45 million years ago.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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