Eocene Plant Diversity at Laguna del Hunco and Río Pichileufú, Patagonia, Argentina

Peter Wilf, Kirk R. Johnson, N. Rubén Cúneo, M. Elliot Smith, Bradley S. Singer, Maria A. Gandolfo
2005 American Naturalist  
The origins of South America's exceptional plant diversity are poorly known from the fossil record. We report on unbiased quantitative collections of fossil floras from Laguna del Hunco (LH) and Río Pichileufú (RP) in Patagonia, Argentina. These sites represent a frost-free humid biome in South American middle latitudes of the globally warm Eocene. At LH, from 4,303 identified specimens, we recognize 186 species of plant organs and 152 species of leaves. Adjusted for sample size, the LH flora
more » ... more diverse than comparable Eocene floras known from other continents. The RP flora shares several taxa with LH and appears to be as rich, although sampling is preliminary. The two floras were previously considered coeval. However, 40 Ar/ 39 Ar dating of three ash-fall tuff beds in close stratigraphic association with the RP flora indicates an age of 47.46 ‫ע‬ Ma, 4.5 million years younger than LH, for which one tuff is 0.05 reanalyzed here as Ma. Thus, diverse floral associations 51.91 ‫ע‬ 0.22 in Patagonia evolved by the Eocene, possibly in response to global warming, and were persistent and areally extensive. This suggests
doi:10.1086/430055 pmid:15937744 fatcat:up6kxm3o6bcjxc2mhmmhvkljga