Bonanzacarpum sprungerorum sp. nov. – a bizarre fruit from the Eocene Green River Formation in Utah, USA


Shales of the early middle Eocene Parachute Creek Member of the Green River Formation in Utah, western USA, have yielded a large number of fossil plant remains with abundant Platanaceae, Salicaceae, and Ulmaceae, but many of the constituents of this flora remain indeterminate. Here we present a new fruit type based on distinctive sedimentary molds investigated by reflected light and μCT scanning. The structures are oblate woody fruits, about 18–26 mm wide but only 2–4 mm high, but partially flattened by compression within the sediment. In transverse view they are rounded-polygonal, with 5–6 sides. In lateral view the locule is dome-shaped with 7 to 11 obpyriform grooves radiating from the center of the basal wall. Three-dimensional imaging and both physical and digital sections indicate that the fruits were circumscissile capsules. Although analogous fruits occur in the Lecythidaceae A.RICH., Bonanzacarpum sprungerorum sp. nov. fruits are much smaller and lack the prominent woody pedicel and corresponding basal scar that characterizes that family. Hence, the systematic position of B. sprungerorum remains uncertain.

Key words

fossil fruits, circumscissile capsules, Palaeogene, extinct, micro-CT scanning