Early Eudicot flower and fruit: Dakotanthus gen. nov. from the Cretaceous Dakota Formation of Kansas and Nebraska, USA

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An extinct plant that populated the eastern margin of the Cretaceous Midcontinental Seaway of North America about 100 million years ago has attracted interest as one of the earliest known bisexual flowers in the fossil record. Reexamination of the type specimen of Carpites cordiformis Lesq., and corresponding specimens from sandstones and clays of the Dakota Formation of Kansas and Nebraska and the correlative Woodbine Sandstone of Texas, with both light microscopy and micro CT scanning, leads to a revised concept of the morphology and affinities of the “Rose Creek flower”. The moderately large flowers (22–30 mm diameter) have two perianth whorls: five basally fused sepals and five free spatulate petals. The gynoecium is pentacarpellate with five styles. A crescent-shaped nectariferous pad occurs at the base of the gynoecium aligned with each sepal. Ten stamens are inserted at the level of the nectaries, one whorl organized opposite the sepals and another opposite the petals. In situ pollen is oblate, brevitricolporate and finely verrucate. The fruits are loculicidal capsules with persistent calyx and disk. Comparing the full suite of observed characters with those of extant angiosperms indicates particularly close similarity to the monogeneric fabalean family Quillajaceae, with shared features of perianth number and morphology, nectary position and morphology, stamen number and morphology, and gynoecium merosity, although the fossil differs from extant Quillaja in fruit type (capsule vs basally syncarpous follicles) and especially in pollen morphology (10 μm oblate, microverrucate, vs 30–40 μm prolate, striate).

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