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