Based on a fossil fruit from the early Miocene strata of the Most Basin in Northern Bohemia (Czech Republic), a new species of the genus Halesia L. of the family Styracaceae is described as Halesia mosbruggeri Kvaček, sp. nov. The fossil occurrence of this genus, which today shows a disjunct distribution, adds a further evidence for the ancient connection between North America and Eurasia during the Neogene.
The so far undertaken explorations of the early Miocene plants of the Most Basin in Northern Bohemia (the Czech Republic) have resulted in a wealth of new data on Neogene fossil flora. Preliminary data were published in Czech and illustrated in a popular book by Kvaček et al. (2004, 2019). Some novelties were added when new collections gathered to date in the open cast mine Bílina were re-studied (Kvaček 2019). These newly recognised taxa are now treated in detail within a series of separate papers (e.g. Kvaček and Teodoridis 2019).
The present paper continues this series and deals with a newly recovered angiosperm fruit, described below as belonging to Halesia mosbruggeri Kvaček, sp. nov. (Styracaceae). This plant was recognised on the basis of a single fruit remain collected by Zdeněk Dvořák, geologist of the Bílina mine. No other specimens of the same kind have been recovered to date. The material is kept at the National museum, 115 79 Praha 1.
This short account is devoted to the anniversary of Professor Volker Mosbrugger, a leading German palaeontologist, whom I appreciate as a person advocating new approaches in palaeontological research and broader understanding of plant history. The record of this newly characterised plant extends our understanding of Euro-American floristic similarities through the Cainozoic (see Kvaček and Manchester 2000).
The fossil representatives of the Styracaceae are known from the Tertiary mainly from incomplete fruits or endocarps (Kirchheimer 1957). Fossil remains of this family are not very abundant (Mädler 1939; Winterscheid and Kvaček 2014). Besides fruits, other organs are rarely mentioned (wood by Sakala et al. 2010; foliage by Kvaček et al. 2011, 2020). The fruit described below belongs to those fossil representatives of Styracaceae that are based on the reproductive organs alone—exceptionally well preserved winged fruits.
Styracaceae Dumortier, 1829
Halesia mosbruggeri Kvaček, sp. nov.
Diagnosis: Fruit flat compressed, obovate, slightly emarginate, basally narrow cuneate, 29 mm long, in the upper part 14 mm wide, longitudinally slightly roof-shaped, winged, pedicel 1.5 mm, broken off, locule in the upper part narrow elliptical, with crushed endocarp, two (?four) wings with barely visible venation showing a simple, fimbrial vein, close to margin, protruding style remnant 2 mm long, massive, on apex of the holotype.
Stratum typicum and locus typicus: Most Formation of the Most (North-Bohemian) Basin, Holešice Member, early Miocene. Open cast mine Bílina, Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic.
Description: The above described winged fruit impression with its counter impression shows a flat, narrow, spindle-shaped endocarp with two (four?) wings on either side. The veins of wings are simple, intramarginal, close to the margin, steep at the base, turned rounded on the apex. One side of the holotype shows a short and thick apical projection. The base is narrowing cuneate, with a broken off stalk.
The fossil matches winged fruits of Halesia L. (Styracaceae), deciduous shrubs to small trees distributed among 2–3 species in North America and 1 species in China. The species described above is similar in fruits to Halesia diptera J. Ellis. (Fig. 3), a deciduous large shrub or small tree spread on bluffs, hammocks and coastal plain from northern Florida to South Carolina (Ericson 1989; Nelson 1996).
Most of the previously published fossil records of Halesia are based on fossil carbonized fruit remains, mostly endocarps, obtained by sieving from sandy sediments (e.g. Mai 1995, 1998; Friis 1979, 1985; Gregor 1978) and usually ascribed to H. crassa (C. and E.M. Reid) Kirchheimer, with partly preserved four-winged fruits, similar to the recent H. carolina L. from eastern North America (Tralau 1965; Kirchheimer 1957). The isolated endocarps are difficult to distinguish from another genus of the Styracaceae, Sinojackia Hu endemic in China (Mai 1998; Bůžek in Bůžek et al. 1996, p. 33, pl. 20, fig. 5, as Sinojackia sp.). Massive carbonized fruit fossils different from Halesia were also compared with other genera of the Styracaceae, e.g. Styrax L., and noted in the fossil state (as Styrax maximus (Weber) Kirchheimer), partly accompanied by foliage (Styrax burdigalensis Kvaček et al. 2011).
The currently described new species Halesia mosbruggeri Kvaček is a rare case, in that such a winged fruit fossil can be preserved intact, in silty lake sediments. Corresponding foliage, pollen and other organs have not been suggested for the site of Bílina.
Fossil winged fruits of similar shape and form have also been described as Podopterus Bonpl. (Polygonaceae), differing in the venation lacking intramarginal veins in wings (e.g. Podopterus antiquus Manchester and O’Leary) from the Paleocene of the USA, see Manchester and O’Leary 2010, p. 72, figs 23 h-m.
Palaeogeography of the Northern Hemisphere together with new discoveries of fossils reflects the history of biotas during the Cainozoic and adds new data for possible routes of migration (Tiffney 2000). The Miocene of Northern Bohemia has yielded numerous plant macrofossils thanks to the traditional cooperation between coal geologists working in the mines and palaeontologists. One of the latest discoveries of such a undertaking in Europe is the abovedescribed record of rare fruits of Halesia mosbruggeri. It adds further evidence for an ancient connection between North America and Eurasia during the Neogene.
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My thanks are due to Angela Bruch, Dieter Uhl and Torsten Utescher who invited me to participate in this special issue and my successor at the Charles University, Jakub Sakala, who continuously helped me in the field and research, as well as to my son Jiří Kvaček, National Museum, Prague, who persuaded me to continue in research activities. Steven R. Manchester and Arata Momohara kindly suggested improvements of the first version of the manuscript.
This research is financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic (project no. PRVOUK P 44).
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This article is a contribution to the special issue “Palaeobotanical contributions in honour of Volker Mosbrugger”
The author of this article sadly passed away end of last year. His E-Mail address was replaced by the one of his son Associated Professor Jiří Kvaček
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Kvaček, Z. Halesia mosbruggeri Kvaček, sp. nov., a new fossil fruit of Halesia L. (Styracaceae) from the Bohemian Miocene (Czech Republic). Palaeobio Palaeoenv 101, 75–78 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12549-020-00463-y
- Early Miocene
- Most Basin
- Detached fruit