The earliest record of the genus Cola (Malvaceae sensu lato: Sterculioideae) from the Late Oligocene (28–27 Ma) of Ethiopia and leaf characteristics within the genus

  • Aaron David PanEmail author
  • Bonnie F. Jacobs
Original Article


A fossil leaf compression from the Late Oligocene (28–27 Ma) of northwestern Ethiopia is the earliest record of the African endemic moist tropical forest genus Cola (Malvaceae sensu lato: Sterculioideae). Based on leaf and epidermal morphology, the fossil is considered to be very similar to two extant Guineo-Congolian species but differences warrant designation of a new species. This study also includes a review of the fossil record of Cola, a comprehensive summary of leaf characteristics within several extant species of Cola, Octolobus, and Pterygota, and a brief discussion of the paleogeographic implications of the fossil species affinity and occurrence in Ethiopia.


Cola Cuticle Octolobus Pterygota Sterculiaceae 



We would like to thank the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ethiopia, and especially Ato Jara for permission to conduct our continuing research in northwestern Ethiopia, and the Director Mamitu Yilga and staff of the National Museum, Addis Ababa, and the Gondar ARCCH and Chilga Ministry of Culture and Sports Affairs for logistical support. We thank the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and the collectors of the herbaria specimens examined for assistance and access to their collections. We are grateful to the National Museums of Kenya, the Baringo Paleontological Research Project, the East African Herbarium, and Christine Kabuye for their collaborative support of work in Kenya. This project was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation (EAR-0001259, EAR-0240251, and EAR-0617306), the National Geographic Society, and the Dallas Paleontological Society. Tillehun Selassie, Misege Birara, Habtewold Habtemichael, Mesfin Mekonnen, and Drs. Ambachew Kebede and Aklilou Asfaw provided valuable field assistance. We thank Dr. Martin Cheek for generously sharing information about Cola and other sterculioids, for providing advice, and for supplying cuticle specimens from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. We are grateful to Dr. Thomas Denk for images of the Cameroon sterculioid fossils housed at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. We also appreciatively acknowledge help from Yohannes Desta, Yeshiwass Sitotaw, Gebremeskel Ayele, Elias Addissu, and Teshome Yohannes at Chilga and laboratory assistance from Kathryn Larson.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fort Worth Museum of Science and HistoryFort WorthUSA
  2. 2.Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth SciencesSouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA

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