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Early Carboniferous lignophyte tree diversity in Australia: Woods from the Drummond and Yarrol basins, Queensland

  • Decombeix, Anne-Laure
  • Galtier, Jean
  • McLoughlin, Stephen
  • Meyer-Berthaud, Brigitte
  • Webb, Gregory
  • Blake, Paul
Publication Date
Apr 01, 2019
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Early Carboniferous (Mississippian) permineralized woods from Australia with multiseriate rays have been customarily assigned or compared to the European genus Pitus, despite the absence of information on their primary vascular anatomy. In the context of continuing work on the diversity of Late Devonian and Mississippian floras of Gondwana, we studied new silicified woods with secondary xylem similar to that of Pitus (multiseriate rays, araucarioid radial pitting) from two sedimentary basins of Queensland, Australia. In the Drummond Basin, three morphotypes of wood of Viséan age can be distinguished based on ray size in tangential section. Although this variation is similar to that observed between the various European species of Pitus, information on the primary vascular anatomy of the trees provided by three incomplete specimens excludes an affinity with Pitus for at least two taxa. In the Yarrol Basin, two well-preserved late Viséan trunks also have characters similar to Pitus but can be distinguished from that genus and other previously described Mississippian trees, in particular by the anatomy of their primary vascular system and departing leaf traces. They are assigned to a new genus, Ninsaria. Collectively, the new specimens from Queensland show that wood traditionally referred to “Pitus” from Australia actually belongs to several other types of trees that are not known from Europe or North America, indicating probable floristic provincialism between the Northern and Southern hemisphere floras at this time. These new fossils corroborate the existence of a global Mississippian diversification of (pro)gymnosperm trees already noted in Laurussia. They also indicate that the Mississippian floras of Australia were more diverse and complex than traditionally inferred.

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