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Biogeography of living and fossil Nitellopsis (Charophyta) in relationship to new finds from Morocco

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Abstract Aim 

To document the distribution of two closely related macrophyte species, the fossil Nitellopsis (Tectochara) merianii (A. Braun ex Unger) Grambast & Soulié-Märsche and Nitellopsis obtusa (Desvaux) J. Groves, the single living species of genus Nitellopsis and to draw the relationships between first finds of N. merianii in North Africa and previously known records. Location 

South part of the High Atlas Range, Aït Kandoula basin, Morocco. Methods 

New finds of fossil charophyte gyrogonites were determined and illustrated. Using a large bibliographic database of both fossil and extant charophytes, we depict the biogeographical distribution N. merianii and N. obtusa and summarize the ecological requirements of N. obtusa as a modern analogue. Results 

The Aït Kandoula deposits, dated by magnetostratigraphy and vertebrate fossils to Upper Miocene, provided the first fossil populations of N. merianii in Africa. The distribution patterns of the Tertiary N. merianii and the living N. obtusa superimpose on a large area that extends from Spain to East Asia and characterize them as typically Eurasian taxa indicative for permanent, relatively cold and deep freshwater lakes. During the Quaternary, similar palaeolakes in the Sahara were colonized by N. obtusa. Main conclusions 

The presence of the Eurasian species N. merianii in North Africa is the result of dispersal by migratory waterbirds and attests to N–S migration occurring during the Upper Miocene (10–5 Myr ago). Gyrogonites imported from Southern Europe could germinate and fulfil their life cycle so as to form a new seed bank of gyrogonites because they had been deposited in a suitable environment consisting of a freshwater mountain lake.
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Keywords: Africa; Aït Kandoula basin; Eurasia; Historical biogeography; Messinian; Tertiary; charophytes; palaeolimnology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Instituto de Geofisica, Laboratorio de Palaeomagnetismo, Universidad Nacional autonoma de Mexico, Mexico 2: Laboratoire de Paléobotanique CP 062 UMR 5554 du C. N. R. S, Université Montpellier II, Montpellier, France, and

Publication date: 2002-12-01

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