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The oldest Mahonia (Berberidaceae) fossil from East Asia and its biogeographic implications


Interpretation of the biogeography of the genus Mahonia (Berberidaceae) is limited by the lack of fossil records in East Asia. Compressed fossil foliage, described here as Mahonia mioasiatica sp. nov., were collected from the Upper Miocene Xiaolongtan Formation in Wenshan, Yunnan, southwest China. These specimens represent the oldest reliable fossil record of Mahonia in East Asia. This new fossil species shows a general similarity to Group Orientales and is most similar to the extant eastern Asian Mahonia conferta. Considering other fossil evidence of Mahonia, we propose a migration route of this genus to Asia over the North Atlantic Land Bridge rather than the Bering Land Bridge. Our results also suggest that North America, Europe and East Asia have been successive centers of diversity for the genus, as a consequence of diversification in Group Orientales potentially related to historical climate change.

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We thank members from the Paleoecology Research Group, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences (XTBG, CAS) for fossil collection; thank Professor Steven Manchester from Florida Museum of Natural History for the suggestions of fossil identification. The authors also thank Mr. B. Pan from XTBG for extant plants sample collecting, thanks to Central Lab of XTBG for microscope photographing of fossils. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41372035, No. U1502231) and the National Key Basic Research Project (“973” Project, No. 2012CB821900).

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Correspondence to Zhe-Kun Zhou.

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Huang, J., Su, T., Lebereton-Anberrée, J. et al. The oldest Mahonia (Berberidaceae) fossil from East Asia and its biogeographic implications. J Plant Res 129, 209–223 (2016).

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  • Berberidaceae
  • Biogeography
  • East Asia
  • Miocene
  • Mahonia
  • Southwestern China