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Hanskerpia gen. nov. and phylogenetic relationships among the most ancient conifers (Voltziales)

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A new fossilized walchian (Voltziales) conifer plant from the Late Pennsylvanian Hamilton Quarry of Kansas, U.S.A. combines morphological characters of the morphogenus Walchia and the fossil plant genus Otovicia, with cuticular characters like those of the fossil plant genus Ernestiodendron, and seed cone morphology like that of the fossil plant genus Emporia. Internal anatomical characters are basically similar to the other walchian genera for which such features are known, but some are taxonomically informative. Numerical cladistic analysis reveals that this novel combination of characters defines a new fossil plant genus and species of walchian conifers Hanskerpia hamiltonensis. This analysis provides a test of hypotheses for relationships among walchian and other ancient conifers. Results of this analysis support some previously proposed relationships among the most primitive conifers and other Paleozoic coniferophytes. However, the analysis also calls to question the validity of all previously proposed familial circumscriptions for walchian conifers, and highlights the perplexing systematic challenges posed by the most ancient fossil conifers. The unexpected species richness of voltzialean conifers is interpreted as having resulted from the evolutionary ecology of unstable environments.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental and Plant Biology, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio 45701, U.S.A 2: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada

Publication date: 2005-08-01

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