Fossil Ophioglossales in the Paleocene of Western North America.

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  • Vegetative and fertile frond segments of Botrychium have been recovered from Paleocene deposits of central Alberta, Canada. Specimens are preserved as coalified compressions that yield information about frond structure, sporangia, and spore ultrastructure. These fossils, described as Botrychium wightonii sp. nov., establish a megafossil record for the Ophioglossales, and demonstrate that modem-appearing species of the order were present in western North America by the earliest Tertiary. The largest vegetative fragments are up to 4.6 cm long and tripinnately compound, with opposite to subopposite branching. Ultimate segments are pinnatifid with dentate pinnules and open dichotomous venation. Fertile specimens are also tripinnately compound with a long rachis and subopposite to alternate pinnae. Sporangia are either submarginal and superficial, or marginal, and are all directed toward one surface of the pinnule. They are ovoid to subspheroidal and 0.8-2.0 mm in diameter. Some sporangia are apparently stalked, while others appear to be sessile. This variation results both from the ultimate frond segments being compressed in several different planes, and the fossils being exposed at different levels. Spores macerated from the sporangia are radial and trilete, and range 30-67 ,um in diameter. Most are psilate, but some have a densely striate surface.

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    This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Rothwell, G.W., and Stockey, R.A. (1989). Fossil Ophioglossales in the Paleocene of Western North America. American Journal of Botany , Vol. 76, No. 5, 637-644