Fossilized pollen of charismatic southern hemisphere plant found in western Greenland

Pollen from the early Paleocene of western Greenland expands flowering plant family spatial ranges

Data resources used via GBIF : 45,440 species occurrences
Pseudowintera colorata
Pseudowintera colorata by Alex Fergus via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Comprising ~130 species in seven genera, Winteraceae is family of flowering plants with greatest diversity in the southern hemisphere. A pollen fossil found recently in a western Greenland Paleoscene sediment sample tells a new story about the biogeography of Winteraceae.

Presenting the find, researchers in this study used light and electron microscopy to compare the fossilized grain with other fossils and extant pollen, describing the new species Pseudowinterapollis agatdalensis (after the valley where the fossil was found).

Using GBIF-mediated Winteraceae occurrences, the researchers derive climate and vegetation profiles for extant genera of the family. The paleoflora of Western Greenland suggests a fully humid temperate climate with biomes analogous to those now occupied with extant Winteraceae genera in Australasia.

The evidence presented in the study implies that Winteraceae is not just a charasmatic family of the Southern hemisphere, but likely provides important clues to understanding global biogeographic evolution of flowering plants.

Link to original article

Grímsson F, Grimm GW, Potts AJ, Zetter R and Renner SS (2017) A Winteraceae pollen tetrad from the early Paleocene of western Greenland, and the fossil record of Winteraceae in Laurasia and Gondwana. Journal of Biogeography. Wiley 45(3): 567–581. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13154.