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The Glossopteridales are an extinct group of seed plants that dominated Gondwanan floras during the Permian. Their remains are found across a wide range of habitats and paleolatitudes, and it is particularly interesting to understand the anatomical characteristics that might have enabled such an extensive distribution. Here, we document for the first time the bark anatomy of high-latitude glossopteridalean trees using peels and thin sections made from a Late Permian trunk from Skaar Ridge, Antarctica. The bark is 3 cm thick. The secondary phloem is composed of sieve cells, axial and ray parenchyma, and fibers arranged in discontinuous unicellular tangential layers. The outer bark is a rhytidome, with numerous alternating layers of periderm and non-conducting secondary phloem showing some proliferation of the axial parenchyma. Successive periderms mostly run parallel to the cambium, with some longitudinal undulation and rare connections between two periderms. A similar anatomy was observed in bark fragments found isolated in the matrix or closely associated with large glossopterid stems or roots. The anatomy of the Skaar Ridge specimens shows that Antarctic Glossopteridales had a relatively thick, probably stringy bark. The retention of a significant amount of insulating dead bark tissue on the trunk likely provided protection of the cambium, conducting secondary phloem, and potential latent buds against biotic and abiotic environmental hazards (fire, frost, scalding, insects, etc.) and may have contributed to the extensive paleolatitudinal distribution of the Glossopteridales during the Permian.

Affiliations: 1: CNRS and Université Montpellier 2 ; 2: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Natural History Museum andBiodiversity Institute, University of Kansas


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