Abstract

The Matoniaceae is one of the most ancient lineages of extant ferns, with a fossil record that extends from the early Mesozoic. Currently they are considered to be a systematically isolated group that occupies a basal position in the phylogeny of leptosporangiate ferns. Although the extant taxa of Matoniaceae are today restricted to the Malaysian archipelago, a diverse assemblage of matoniaceous ferns occurred on every continent, including Antarctica, during the Mesozoic. Here we describe anatomically preserved, detached fern sori and sporangia from the Fremouw Formation with a combination of characters that affiliates them with the Matoniaceae. Sori are peltate with more than 25 crowded sporangia that display simple maturation. The indusium is multiseriate and centrally attached to a massive, vascularized receptacle. Sporangia are globose to ovoid with vertical, meandering, incomplete annuli, and are helically attached to the receptacle in three to four gyres. This report places this fern as the earliest known occurrence of the Matoniaceae in the fossil record. Characters observed in the sori offer insights regarding organizational patterns of reproductive structures in the family. Additionally, the presence of a peltate indusium in the earliest known representative of the family contradicts the hypothesized evolutionary sequence in development of this structure in the family.

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