Multiparted, apocarpous flowers from the Early Cretaceous of eastern North America and Portugal


Three new genera, Atlantocarpus, Lambertiflora and Mugideiriflora, are described from the Early Cretaceous of North America and Portugal based on floral structures with multicarpellate and apocarpous gynoecia that have been studied using scanning electron microscopy and synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy. Lambertiflora and Mugideiriflora have numerous perianth parts in several series, as well as many stamens and many carpels borne on a short conical receptacle. Atlantocarpus has many carpels arranged spirally on an elongated receptacle. Perianth and stamens are not preserved in Atlantocarpus, but scars of two sizes at the base of the receptacle indicate the presence of several series of tepals and stamens. Phylogenetic assessment of the three new genera indicates close relationships with members of extant Austrobaileyales, which is also favoured by the apparently ascidiate carpels of Atlantocarpus. However, the phylogenetic signal is not strong and the fossils also share many features with magnoliid angiosperms. Fully secure resolution of their relationships is hampered by lack of information of critical floral features in the fossil material, the constellation of likely plesiomorphic characters that they exhibit, and inadequate knowledge of character homologies and character evolution among extant taxa. There is also the broader concern about whether phylogenetic patterns can be reliably inferred for the earliest phases of angiosperm evolution based solely on a depauperate assemblage of extant taxa given extensive extinction over the last 100 million years. The new genera add to growing evidence of diverse extinct angiosperms with multiparted flowers during the Early Cretaceous that have a variety of relationships to extant ANA-grade angiosperms and magnoliids.

Key words

apocarpous, Cretaceous, early angiosperms, fossil flowers, multiparted, Potomac Group, SRXTM, synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy