Mongolitria: A new Early Cretaceous three-valved seed from Northeast Asia

Am J Bot. 2024 Feb;111(2):e16268. doi: 10.1002/ajb2.16268. Epub 2024 Jan 28.


Premise: Fossil seeds recovered from the Early Cretaceous of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China, are described and assigned to Mongolitria gen. nov., a new genus of gymnosperm seed.

Methods: Abundant lignitized seeds along with compression specimens isolated from the matrix were studied using a combination of scanning electron microscopy, anatomical sectioning, light microscopy, synchrotron radiation X-ray microtomography, and cuticle preparations. A single permineralized seed was examined by light microscopy of cellulose acetate peels and X-ray microtomography.

Results: Two species are recognized, Mongolitria friisae sp. nov. and Mongolitria exesum sp. nov. Both seeds are orthotropous with a short apical micropyle and a small, basal, circular attachment scar. The thick sclerenchymatous integument has a consistently three-parted organization and about 20 conspicuous longitudinal ribs on the surface. Mongolitria exesum differs from M. friisae primarily in its much larger size and thicker seed coat, which also preserves clear evidence of insect damage.

Conclusions: Mongolitria is similar to other fossil seeds that have been assigned to Cycadales, but displays a unique combination of characters not found in any living or extinct cycadaceous plant, leaving its higher-level systematic affinities uncertain. Germination apparently involved splitting of the integument into three valves. Mongolitria was prominent among the plant parts accumulating in peat swamps in eastern Asia during the Early Cretaceous.

Keywords: Cycadales; Early Cretaceous; fossil seeds; gymnosperms; paleobotany; silicified.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • China
  • Cycadopsida
  • Fossils
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Phylogeny
  • Seeds*