Revisions to the fossil sporophyte record of Marsilea
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Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, U.S.A.
Department of Environmental and Plant Biology, Ohio University, Porter Hall 315, Athens, Ohio 45701, U.S.A.
Online publication date: 2019-06-18
Publication date: 2019-06-18
Acta Palaeobotanica 2019; 59(1): 27–50
The fossil record of Marsilea is challenging to assess, due in part to unreliable reports and conflicting opinions regarding the proper application of the names Marsilea and Marsileaceaephyllum to fossil leaves and leaflets similar to those of modern Marsilea. Specimens examined for this study include material assigned to Marsileaceaephyllum johnhallii, purportedly the oldest fossil record of a Marsilea-like sporophyte from the Lower Cretaceous of the Dakota Formation, Kansas, U.S.A.; leaves and leaf whorls of the extinct aquatic angiosperm Fortuna from several Late Cretaceous and Paleocene localities in western North America; and leaves and leaflets resembling Marsilea from the Eocene Green River Formation, Colorado and Utah, U.S.A. Literature on the fossil record of Marsilea was also reviewed. As a result, several taxonomic changes are proposed. Marsileaceaephyllum johnhallii is reinterpreted as an aquatic angiosperm that shares some architectural features with the genus Fortuna, although Marsileaceaephyllum is here maintained as a distinct genus with an emended diagnosis; under this reinterpretation, the name Marsileaceaephyllum can no longer be applied to sporophyte organs with affinities to Marsileaceae. Three valid fossil Marsilea species are recognized on the basis of sporophyte material that includes characteristic quadrifoliolate leaves and reticulate-veined leaflets: Marsilea campanica (J. Kvaček & Herman) Hermsen, comb. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous Grünbach Formation, Austria; Marsilea mascogos Estrada-Ruiz et al., from the Upper Cretaceous Olmos Formation, Mexico; and Marsilea sprungerorum Hermsen, sp. nov., from the Eocene Green River Formation, U.S.A. The species are distinguished from one another based on leaflet dimensions. Leaves from the Eocene Wasatch Formation, U.S.A., are transferred from Marsileaceaephyllum back to Marsilea, although not assigned to a fossil species. Finally, an occurrence of Marsilea from the Oligocene of Ethiopia is reassigned to Salvinia. A critical evaluation of the fossil record of Marsilea thus indicates that (1) the oldest fossil marsileaceous sporophytes bearing Marsilea-like leaves are from the Campanian; (2) only four credible records of sporophyte material attributable to Marsilea are known; and (3) the oldest dispersed Marsilea spores are known from the Oligocene.