Linking modern-day relicts to a Miocene mangrove community of western Amazonia

Matteo Sciumbata, James T. Weedon, Giovanni Bogota-Angel, Carina Hoorn

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    The Amazon drainage basin is extremely biodiverse, yet the origins of this diversification remain much debated. One of the possible drivers of plant diversity are the marine incursions that reached Amazonia during the Miocene and connected western Amazonia with the Caribbean. In the Miocene, large parts of western Amazonia were covered by extensive wetlands that, during high eustatic episodes, were episodically colonised by coastal taxa such as mangroves. In this paper, we hypothesise that some of these mangrove community taxa could adapt to freshwater conditions enriching the modern plant composition of the Amazon drainage basin. To assess the past plant composition in the basin, we statistically analyse the palynological composition of two Miocene sections from western Amazonia that were especially rich in presumed mangrove pollen (Zonocostites ramonae). We identify the pollen taxa that coexisted with this community using clustering methods supported by Kendall’s W coefficient concordance analysis. Our results suggest that at least fourteen taxa are closely associated with Zonocostites ramonae (Cricotriporites guianensis, Deltoidospora adriennis, Psilabrevitricolporites devriesii, Psiladiporites redundantis, Psilamonocolpites amazonicus, P. rinconii, Psilatricolporites crassoexinatus, P. labiatus, P. operculatus, Psilatriporites corstanjei, Retitricolporites kaarsii, Rhoipites guianensis, Rhoipites hispidus, and Tetracolporopollenites transversalis). We also illustrate the pollen of this fossil mangrove, and some of its associated fossil taxa, using light microscopy (LM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and we compare them with potential nearest living relatives (NLR). We found that pollen of the modern mangrove Rhizophora mangle is the NLR of Zonocostites ramonae. Of the three associated taxa, the best analogy is between Psilabrevitricolporites devriesii and Humiria balsamifera, the latter a taxon best known from the coastal restinga vegetation in Brazil and Surinam. Tentatively, we assign Forsteronia spp. as NLR for Cricotriporites guianensis, and we propose Euterpe sp. for Psilamonocolpites rinconii (but also Oenocarpus, Hyospathe, Prestoea, and Sabinaria are affine). Based on this study we propose that, at least for some fossil taxa of the Miocene mangrove environment, there are still NLR or relict species that occur in inland Amazonia and along the South American coastline. We thus conclude that the Amazonian flora, like riverine fauna such as the pink river dolphin (Inia) and selected fish taxa, carry an imprint of the Miocene coastal communities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)123-140
    Number of pages18
    JournalPalaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments
    Issue number1
    Early online date27 Jan 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    We are very grateful to Nicole van der Wel and Edwin Scholl from the Electron Microscopy Center Amsterdam (EMCA), who facilitated the SEM photography. Furthermore, we thank Suzette Flantua for providing the map for Fig. 1 , and Jan van Arkel and Hannah Banks for assisting with the LM and SEM photography of Psilamonocolpites rinconi and Huasheng Huang for helping to compile Fig. 4. We also are grateful to Angela Bruch and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Finally, we thank Torsten Utescher, Angela Bruch, and Dieter Uhl for inviting us to contribute to the special issue in celebration of Volker Mosbrugger?s career and the great stimulus he has provided to the field of palynology and palaeoecology.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021, Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

    Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Biogeography
    • Zonocostites
    • Rhizophora (Rhizophoraceae)
    • Humiria (Humiriaceae)
    • Middle Miocene Climatic Optimum
    • Nearest living relative (NLR)
    • Palaeoecology
    • Pebas system
    • Restinga


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