Abstract

Few South American macrofloras of Paleocene age are known, and this limits our knowledge of diversity and composition between the end-Cretaceous event and the Eocene appearance of high floral diversity. We report new, unbiased collections of 2516 compression specimens from the Paleocene Salamanca Formation (ca. 61.7 Ma) from two localities in the Palacio de los Loros exposures in southern Chubut, Patagonia, Argentina. Our samples reveal considerably greater richness than was previously known from the Paleocene of Patagonia, including 36 species of angiosperm leaves as well as angiosperm fruits, flowers, and seeds; ferns; and conifer leaves, cones, and seeds. The floras, which are from siltstone and sandstone channel-fills deposited on low-relief floodplain landscapes in a humid, warm temperate climate, are climatically and paleoenvironmentally comparable to many quantitatively collected Paleocene floras from the Western Interior of North America. Adjusted for sample size, there are >50% more species at each Palacio de los Loros quarry than in any comparable U.S. Paleocene sample. These results indicate more vibrant terrestrial ecosystems in Patagonian than in North American floodplain environments ∼4 m.y. after the end-Cretaceous extinction, and they push back the time line 10 m.y. for the evolution of high floral diversity in South America. The cause of the dis parity is unknown but could involve reduced impact effects because of greater distance from the Chicxulub site, higher latest Cretaceous diversity, or faster recovery or immigration rates.

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