J Syst Evol ›› 2021, Vol. 59 ›› Issue (3): 611-621.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12571

• Research Articles • Previous Articles    

Neogene Corylopsis seeds from eastern Tennessee

Zack J. Quirk1†* and Elizabeth J. Hermsen2,3   

  1. 1Department of Environmental & Plant Biology, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, USA
    2Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), 1259 Trumansburg Road Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
    3Plant Biology Section, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
  • Received:2019-11-01 Accepted:2020-01-21 Online:2020-01-29 Published:2021-05-01

Abstract: A new fossil species of Corylopsis (Hamamelidaceae), C. grisea Quirk & Hermsen sp. nov, based on seeds from the early Pliocene Gray Fossil Site (GFS), eastern Tennessee, USA, is described. The assignment of the seeds to Hamamelidaceae, subfamily Hamamelidoideae, is based on the overall size of the seeds, smooth testa, lack of a seed wing, and the presence of a terminal hilar scar. The assignment to the genus Corylopsis is based on seed size as well as the presence of a hilar facet, in addition to the hilar scar. Although Corylopsis persists only in East Asia today, its fossil record indicates that the genus was widespread across the Northern Hemisphere in the past. Prior to its discovery at GFS, Corylopsis was only known from the Paleogene in North America. The presence of C. grisea at GFS extends the fossil record of Corylopsis in North America to the Neogene and reinforces the interpretation of GFS as a forested refugium that provided a relatively moist, equable environment where subtropical to warm temperate plants could persist during a time of cooling and drying in the continental interior of North America. Its presence provides additional evidence for the biogeographic connection between the GFS paleoflora and the modern flora of eastern Asia.

Key words: biogeography, Corylopsis, Gray Fossil Site, Hamamelidoideae, Pliocene, seed