J Syst Evol

• Research Articles •    

First macrofossil record of Icacinaceae in East Asia (early Oligocene, Wenshan Basin) and its ecological implications

Cédric Del Rio1,2, Jian Huang1,2*, Gregory W. Stull3,4, Rémi Allemand5, Zhe-Kun Zhou1,2,6, and Tao Su1,2*   

  1. 1CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China

    2Center of Plant Ecology, Core Botanical Gardens, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China

    3Germplasm Bank of Wild Species, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan 650201, China

    4Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013, USA

    5Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Canada

    6Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan 650204, China

  • Received:2020-06-01 Accepted:2020-10-15


Icacinaceae are well represented in the modern tropical flora of East Asia, but this family has no confirmed macrofossils from this region. Most of the unambiguous fossils (e.g., endocarps) are from the Paleogene of North America and Europe, where the family is no longer present. Here we report a fossil endocarp of the liana genus Iodes from the Oligocene Wenshan flora, southwestern China. The fossil is relatively large (ca. 20 mm length, 11 mm width) and documents a vascular bundle inside the endocarp wall, a pattern of ridges enclosing few areoles, and an asymmetrical apex and rounded base. On the basis of these characteristics, we described a new species, Iodes elliptica, which represents the first Icacinaceae fruit fossil record from Asia. This fossil, consistent with recent reports of Iodes pollen from the Eocene of Hainan, indicates a long-standing presence of the genus in SE Asia, dating back to the Paleogene. Based on the climatic data of modern Iodes, and other fossil occurrences from Wenshan, we hypothesize that the climate in the region was subtropical during the Oligocene, supporting a rainforest, with an overall mixed regional flora of subtropical and tropical elements.

Key words: Iodes, Icacinaceae, endocarps, Oligocene, paleoclimate, China