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Anatomically preserved vojnovskyalean seed plants in Upper Pennsylvanian (Stephanian) marine shales of North America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2016

Gar W. Rothwell
1Department of Environmental and Plant Biology
Gene Mapes
1Department of Environmental and Plant Biology
Royal H. Mapes
2Department of Geological Sciences, Ohio University, Athens 45701


Upper Pennsylvanian dysoxic marine shales of midcontinent North America yield permineralized remains of apparently extrabasinal vegetation. A large percentage of the plants are surprisingly unlike the well known swamp, fluvial and lacustrian floras of the late Paleozoic paleotropics, revealing numerous aspects of the morphology, anatomy and reproductive biology of plants that may have been ancestral to the dominant taxa of the Mesozoic. Included among the assemblages are ovulate coniferophyte remains that demonstrate the occurrence of vojnovskyalean seed plants in equatorial Euramerica. Specimens consist of simple ovulate cones that are more-or-less clustered along eustelic stems in the axils of helically arranged, strap-shaped leaf bases, and are described as Sergeia neuburgii new genus and species. Individual cones are up to approximately 2 cm long and 1.5 cm in maximum diameter, with helically arranged scales and sporophylls that diverge from a eustelic axis. Scales occur in the basal region of the cone, and are laminar and pointed. Sporophylls are borne distally. One specimen shows about 45 sporophylls, each of which terminates as one erect ovule. Most of the other cones have abraded apices, and terminate in relatively terete foliar appendages that are interpreted to be sporophyll bases. Ovules are flattened and winged, approaching 180° rotational symmetry. Integument histology, vascular tissue distribution and pollen chamber structure are similar to those of cordaiteans and callistophytalean seed ferns. Sergeia adds to the number of late Paleozoic conifer-like plants that do not conform to the Pinopsida as traditionally circumscribed, and poses additional questions to assumptions of monophyly for coniferophytes and for conifers sensu lato.

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Anatomically preserved vojnovskyalean seed plants in Upper Pennsylvanian (Stephanian) marine shales of North America
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