First evidence of a monodominant (Englerodendron, Amherstieae, Detarioideae, Leguminosae) tropical moist forest from the early Miocene (21.73 Ma) of Ethiopia

Aaron D. Pan*, Bonnie F. Jacobs, Rosemary T. Bush, Manuel de la Estrella, Friðgeir Grímsson, Patrick S. Herendeen, Xander M. van der Burgt, Ellen D. Currano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many tropical wet forests are species-rich and have relatively even species frequency distributions. But, dominance by a single canopy species can also occur in tropical wet climates and can remain stable for centuries. These are uncommon globally, with the African wet tropics supporting more such communities than the Neotropics or Southeast Asia. Differences in regional evolutionary histories are implied by biogeography: most of Africa's monodominance-forming species are Amherstieae-tribe legumes; monodominance in Neotropical forests occur among diverse taxonomic groups, often legumes, but rarely Amherstieae, and monodominance in Southeast Asian forests occurs mostly among Dipterocarpaceae species. African monodominant forests have been characterized ecologically and taxonomically, but their deep-time history is unknown despite their significant presence and bottom-up ecological influence on diversity. Herein we describe fossil leaflets of Englerodendron mulugetanum sp. nov., an extinct species of the extant genus Englerodendron (Berlinia Clade, Amherstieae, Detarioideae) from the 21.73 Ma Mush Valley site in Ethiopia. We also document a detailed study of associated legume pollen, which originate from a single taxon sharing characters with more than one extant descendant. Taxonomically, the pollen is most comparable to that from some extant Englerodendron species and supports a likely affiliation with the Englerodendron macrofossils. The Mush Valley site provides the first fossil evidence of a monodominant tropical forest in Africa as represented by leaflets and pollen. Previous studies documented >2400 leaves and leaflets from localities at six stratigraphic levels spanning 50,000-60,000 years of nearly continuous deposition within seven meters of section; all but the basal level contain ≥ 50% E. mulugetanum leaflets. Modern leaf litter studies in African mixed vs. monodominant forests indicates the likelihood of monodominance in the forests that surrounded the Mush paleolake, particularly after the basal level. Thus, we provide an early case for monodominance within the Amherstieae legumes in Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0279491
JournalPloS one
Volume18
Issue number1 January
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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