Abstract

The Quilchena fossil locality is dated (51.5 ± 0.4 Ma) to the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum, and this locality is reconstructed as the warmest and wettest of the Early Eocene upland sites from the Okanagan Highlands of British Columbia and northern Washington State. Mean annual temperature (MAT) is estimated from leaf margin analysis, using 55 dicot morphotypes, as 16.2 ± 2.1 °C/14.6 ± 4.8 °C. Using bioclimatic analysis of 45 nearest living relatives, a moist mesothermal climate is indicated (MAT 12.7–16.6 °C; cold month mean temperature (CMMT) 3.5–7.9 °C; mean annual precipitation (MAP) 103–157 cm/year. Leaf size analysis estimates MAP at 121 ± 39 cm/year. Estimates from the climate leaf analysis multivariate program corroborate these results, although with a slightly cooler MAT (13.3 ± 2.1 °C). Plants that support an interpretation of warm winters with minimal or no frost include Azolla, Glyptostrobus, Taxodium, Keteleeria, Pseudolarix, Eucommia, Dipteronia, Hovenia, Ternstroemia, and others. These thermophilous elements occur together with temperate genera such as Alnus, Betula, Ulmus, Calocedrus, and Fraxinus. Palynological assemblages at Quilchena are dominated by bisaccate conifers and Cupressaceae. Common angiosperms include Ulmus type, triporates, Pterocarya, and Alnus. Insect fossils at Quilchena that today inhabit tropical and subtropical regions also support warm and equable climate without significant frost, and include obligate palm-feeding beetles (Pachymerina), which indicate CMMT perhaps as high as 8 °C. These are found together with temperate aphids, wasps, giant lacewings, brown lacewings, and a panorpoid scorpionfly, supporting an interpretation of equable climatic conditions during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum.

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