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Fossils of the Fagaceae and their implications in systematics and biogeography

ZHOU Zhe Kun (Kunming Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650204)  
The fossil history of the Fagaceae from China and its systematic and biogeographic implications are discussed based on revisionary studies of the fossil records. No creditable macrofossil record of the Fagaceae exists in the Cretaceous deposits and all the Cretaceous microfossil reports remain equivocal and require further study. The Paleocene fossils show the appearance and diversification of the two groups corresponding to the subfamilies Fagoideae and Castaneoideae sensu Nixon. By the Eocene, all modern genera had been present. The oldest fagaceous fossils represent subfamily Fagoideae with affinities to the extant genus Trigonobalanus. The leaf fossil genus Berryophyllum, with affinities to Quercus subg.Cyclobalanopsis, has been documented by the early Eocene and might have occurred earlier than other fossils assignable to Quercus. The appearance of evergreen sclerophyllous Quercus with entire leaves might have occurred earlier than those with toothed leaves. Deciduous, urticoid leaved oak fossils (Quercus subg. Quercus sect. Quercus) had not appeared until the Miocene. Fossil equivalents of Trigonobalanus, Castanopsis and Lithocarpus had occurred in Europe and North America by the early Tertiary, suggesting that continuous distributions were achieved via the northern hemisphere land bridges. Three groups of evergreen sclerophyllous oaks of apparent close phylogenetic relationships occurred in the Hengduan mountains, the Mediterranean area and northwestern North America. Their fossil forms have become dominant elements of those vegetation zones since the Miocene. A shared fossil history indicates a possible biogeographic boundary formed by the ancient Mediterranean. The evidence suggests that the oaks might arrive in North America during two distinct geologic periods: evergreen sclerophyllous entire leaved oaks appeared by the Early Tertiary, whereas the deciduous oaks with urticoid leaves appeared in the Late Tertiary.
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