New fossil fruits ofCarya(Juglandaceae) from the latest Miocene to earliest Pliocene in Tennessee, eastern United States

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Abstract

Fossil fruits including nuts and associated husk valves of a new species of Carya (Juglandaceae) are described from the latest Miocene to earliest Pliocene in northeastern Tennessee, eastern United States. The husk valves are elliptic, 1.2–4.5 mm thick, with a convex exterior face and a concave interior face; the nuts are globose to ovoid in shape, smooth and longitudinally ribbed on exterior surface, with a short protruding apex and a slightly 4-angled base; inner ribs, lacunae and primary septa are well-developed, while secondary septa are absent or weakly developed. The combination of these carpological characteristics clearly shows a close resemblance to the genus Carya in Juglandaceae. Detailed comparisons of carpological morphology and anatomy indicate that the present fossil taxon is different from both living and most other fossil species of the genus, and therefore warrants the designation of a new fossil species, Carya tennesseensis Huang et al., sp. nov. Carya tennesseensis displays a carpological similarity to C. ventricosa from the late Oligocene to early Pliocene in Europe, suggesting a potential species exchange of the genus between Europe and southeastern North America during the late Neogene. The new fossil species represents one of the few fruit fossil species of Carya from its modern distribution range in southeastern North America. It provides crucial information for better understanding the rapid diversification of the genus from the late Miocene to early Pliocene, and the origin and establishment of today's Carya biodiversity in this region.

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