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New Late Cretaceous and Paleocene Dicot Woods of Big Bend National Park, Texas and Review of Cretacous Wood Characteristics

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Three new wood types from the Late Cretaceous and one from the Paleocene of Big Bend National Park, Texas, U.S.A. add to our knowledge of North American Late Cretaceous and Paleocene plants. Sabinoxylon wicki sp. nov. provides further evidence of similarities in late Campanian-early Maastrichtian vegetation of Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. This species is characterized by mostly solitary vessels, scalariform perforation plates, vessel-ray parenchyma pits similar to intervessel pits, vasicentric tracheids, and two size classes of rays. Storage tissue accounts for close to 50% of its wood volume. Another of the new Cretaceous wood types, referred to as Big Bend Ericalean Wood Type I, has more than 40% ray parenchyma. Both Big Bend Ericalean Wood Type I and Sabinoxylon have a combination of characters that occurs in the order Ericales (sensu APGII). The third new Cretaceous wood type is from a small axis (less than 3 cm diameter), and has a combination of features that is the most common pattern in extant eudicots (vessels solitary and in radial multiples randomly arranged, simple perforation plates and alternate intervessel pits, and heterocellular rays). The Paleocene wood (cf. Cunonioxylon sensu Gottwald) differs from all other North American Paleocene woods and has characteristics found in the predominantly Southern Hemisphere family Cunoniaceae. The characteristics of these new Big Bend woods contribute to a database for fossil angiosperm woods, and allow for comparison of incidences of selected wood anatomical features in Northern Hemisphere Cretaceous woods from Albian to Maastrichtian time as well as comparison with extant woods. Cretaceous woods as a whole differ from Recent woods in having higher incidences of exclusively solitary vessels, scalariform perforation plates, and wide rays (>10-seriate), and lower incidences of ring porosity, wide vessels (>200 μm), vessels in groups, non-random arrangements of vessels, and marginal parenchyma. The occurrence of relatively high percentages of storage cells (>40%) in some Cretaceous trees is noteworthy; the ability to produce wood with varying amounts and arrangements of parenchyma is likely to be a contributing factor to the success of angiosperm trees in a wide variety of environments.


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