Reconsidering Relationships among Stem and Crown Group Pinaceae: Oldest Record of the Genus Pinus from the Early Cretaceous of Yorkshire, United Kingdom Public Deposited

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  • This study describes a specimen that extends the oldest fossil evidence of Pinus L. to the Early Cretaceous Wealden Formation of Yorkshire, UK (131-129 million years ago), and prompts a critical reevaluation of criteria that are employed to identify crown group genera of Pinaceae from anatomically preserved seed cones. The specimen, described as Pinus yorkshirensis sp. nov., is conical, 5 cm long, and 3.1 cm in maximum diameter. Bract/scale complexes are helically arranged and spreading. Vasculature of the axis forms a complete cylinder with few resin canals in the wood, and the inner cortex is dominated by large resin canals. Bracts are short, with two resin canals, and separate from the scale base laterally. Distally, the ovuliferous scales broaden and thicken to form a rhomboidal apophysis with a dorsal umbo, characters found only in the genus Pinus among living conifers. Resin canals enter the ovuliferous scale abaxial to the vascular tissue, which divides distally to form a row of adaxially convex bundles. A short interseminal ridge separates two inverted and winged seeds on the adaxial surface of the ovuliferous scale. Seeds contain megagametophyte tissue and polycotyledonary embryos. Numerical cladistic analysis of anatomically preserved seed cones yields a well-resolved phylogeny of crown and stem group Pinaceae that is roughly concordant with the results of analyses that include living species only. All of the included species of Pinus form a clade with three very Pinus-like species that currently are assigned to the stem genus Pityostrobus. These results call to question the utility of traditional methods for assigning fossil seed cones to Pinus, resolve relationships among stem and crown group genera, and highlight the unnatural circumscription of Pityostrobus. This suggests that some species of Pityostrobus may actually represent the genus Pinus, and it demonstrates that the evolutionary diversification of Pinaceae began earlier than previously recognized from fossil evidence.
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  • Ryberg, P. E., Rothwell, G. W., Stockey, R. A., Hilton, J., Mapes, G., & Riding, J. B. (2012). Reconsidering relationships among stem and crown group pinaceae: Oldest record of the genus pinus from the early cretaceous of yorkshire, united kingdom. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 173(8), 917-932. doi: 10.1086/667228
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