A ranunculalean liana stem from the cretaceous of British Columbia, Canada: Atli morinii gen. et sp nov. Public Deposited

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  • Premise of research. The lianoid habit is found in 125 extant plant families and is most diverse and abundant in structurally complex forests, such as tropical forests. A stem with lianoid anatomy is described from Cretaceous sediments of Hornby Island, British Columbia. Methodology. The stem segment, 2.5 cm in diameter and 2.8 cm long, was studied using the cellulose acetate peel technique and SEM. Anatomy was documented and compared to fossil and modern taxa. Pivotal results. The stem lacks distinct growth increments, and the fibrous wood is dissected by large (>10 cells wide) rays. Wood is diffuse porous with mostly solitary vessels, rarely in tangential multiples (2-4). Vessel elements have a mean tangential diameter of 198 mm and mean length of 527 mu m, bearing medium to large, crowded, elliptical to flat-elliptical alternate pits. Axial parenchyma is diffuse and vessels are surrounded by vasicentric tracheids with alternate bordered pitting. Rays are homocellular and >2 cm tall. Phloem rays are dilated, protruding into the xylem rays; thick-walled ray cells contain prismatic crystals. Periderm is composed of thin-walled cells interspersed with sclerotic nests. Wood anatomy of the fossil shows the most similarity to that of lianas in the Menispermaceae, Lardizabalaceae, and Ranunculaceae. Conclusions. The Hornby Island stem represents a new taxon, Atli morinii gen. et sp. nov. (Ranunculales). This liana specimen expands our knowledge of Cretaceous biodiversity and points to the presence of structurally complex forests on Hornby Island in the Campanian. Anatomy of Atli and other Cretaceous liana stems combines characteristics of several families in Ranunculales, documenting past anatomical diversity and possible stem lineage mosaicism. The most diverse lianoid lineages currently known from the Cretaceous and Paleogene are early-divergent eudicots, particularly Ranunculales and Vitales that account for more than 50% of described lianoid species during this key time period of angiosperm diversification.
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  • Smith, S., Little, S., Cooper, R., Burnham, R., & Stockey, R. (2013). A ranunculalean liana stem from the cretaceous of British Columbia, Canada: Atli morinii gen. et sp nov. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 174(5), 818-831. doi:10.1086/669925
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