First occurrence of mastixioid (Cornaceae) fossil in India and its biogeographic implications

Khan, Mahasin Ali; Bera, Meghma; Spicer, Robert A.; Spicer, Teresa E.V. and Bera, Subir (2017). First occurrence of mastixioid (Cornaceae) fossil in India and its biogeographic implications. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 247 pp. 83–96.



Mastixioids in the family Cornaceae, are presently native only in limited areas of Asia, they have rich fossil fruit record in Cenozoic sediments of Europe and North America, but unfortunately none have been reported from Cenozoic sediments of India and Asia until now. Here, we report the occurrence of leaf remains (both impression and compression) along with carbonised fruits, resembling morphologically and anatomically those of the extant endemic species Mastixia arborea C.B. Clarke. Our materials were recovered from the middle Miocene to early Pleistocene Siwalik sediments exposed around West Kameng and Papumpare districts in Arunachal Pradesh, eastern Himalaya. These new fossil materials confirm the existence of Mastixia in the Miocene-Pleistocene Siwalik forests in India. At present the modern analogue does not grow in the eastern Himalaya and is endemic to the tropical evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, situated at the same palaeolatitude as the fossil locality. Extinction from the entire eastern Himalaya and probable movement of this taxon to the Western Ghats is likely due to climate change in the area, related to the Himalayan Orogeny during Miocene–Pleistocene times. The disappearance of Mastixia from this area may be related to the gradual intensification of rainfall seasonality since the late Miocene. The recovery of this species and our earlier-described evergreen taxa from the same Siwalik time (Mio-Pleistocene), suggest the existence of tropical, warm and humid climatic conditions during the period of deposition. The leaf and fruit remains are here described as new species, namely Mastixia asiatica Khan, Bera M et Bera S, sp. nov. and Mastixia siwalika Khan, Bera M et Bera S, sp. nov. respectively. This report documents the first fossil record of Mastixia leaf remains using both macro and micromorphological characters. We also review the historical phytogeography, and highlight the phytogeographic implication of, the mastixioids.

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