The early Miocene flora of Güvem (Central Anatolia, Turkey): a window into early Neogene vegetation and environments in the Eastern Mediterranean

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Abstract

The early Burdigalian (MN3) plant assemblage of the Güvem area (northwestern Central Anatolia) is preserved in lacustrine sediments of the Dereköy pyroclastics. Its age is well constrained by radiometric dates of basaltic rocks bracketing the pyroclastics, making the Güvem flora one of the extremely few precisely dated early Miocene floras in the Mediterranean region. The rich assemblage of impression fossils comprises ferns and fern allies (2 species), gymnosperms (12 spp.) and angiosperms (129 spp.). Ilex miodipyrena sp. nov. is described as a new fossil-species. The most diverse families in the assemblage are the Fagaceae with 12 taxa and the Fabaceae with 12 leaf morphotypes and one fruit taxon. Aquatic plants are represented by seven taxa, riparian (including palms) and swamp forest elements by >35 taxa, and lianas by three taxa (Smilax spp., Chaneya). The relatively large number of aquatic and riparian/swamp elements is congruent with the rich fish, amphibian and reptile record of the Güvem area. Another characteristic feature of the plant assemblage is the presence of various lobed leaves which show similarities with modern species of different families (e.g. Alangium, various Malvales). Trees and shrubs growing on well-drained soils and forming closed-canopy and open-canopy forests are the most diversified group (>70 taxa). In terms of number of specimens in the collection and based on field observations, by far the most abundant leaf fossils belong to evergreen oaks of Quercus drymeja and Q. mediterranea and to various types of foliage that cannot be assigned to a particular extant or extinct genus of Fagaceae. These sclerophyllous trees must have covered vast areas surrounding the wetlands that developed during the early Miocene in the Güvem Basin. Based on a recent reassessment of the ecology and taxonomic affinity of these trees, they are considered to reflect humid temperate climatic conditions but with a brief drier season during the winter months. These forests are more similar to the laurel forests of the southeastern United States and those stretching in a narrow belt south of the Himalayas to eastern central China. The large number of Fabaceae may indicate the presence of warm subtropical environments but this is difficult to assess, as they are known for having wide ecological ranges today and in the past. All in all, a larger part of the plant taxa point to forested vegetation. This is in agreement with previous palynological studies which detected only small amounts of herbaceous and grass pollen. Open patches of vegetation may have been restricted to river banks and to rocky areas in a volcanic landscape. The biogeographic patterns detected for the early Miocene of the Güvem assemblage are manifold; most taxa are widespread Northern Hemispheric elements. A substantial part of the species migrated from Asia into Europe during the (late) Paleogene and reached Anatolia during the early Miocene (Fagus, Paliurus, Chaneya, Ailanthus, Quercus kubinyii, Davallia haidingeri, Acer angustilobum, A. palaeosaccharinum). Fewer taxa may have been in Anatolia before they migrated to Europe (e.g. Nerium, Smilax miohavanensis, Quercus sosnowskyi). Finally, very few taxa are Anatolian endemics (e.g. Ilex miodipyrena).

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