Paliurus Fruits from the Oligocene of South China and Their Phytogeographic Implications
A new species of Meliolinites (fossil Meliolaceae), M. buxi sp. nov., is reported from the Oligocene Ningming Formation of Guangxi, South China. The fungus has hyphopodia characteristics of extant Meliolaceae, such as thick-walled, branching hyphae with appressoria and phialides. However, these fossils entirely lack mycelial or perithecial setae and have only a few phialides, thereby distinguishing the new species from most known species. The fungus was discovered on the adaxial and abaxial cuticles of several fossilized Buxus leaves. Thickening and twisting of cell walls in the Buxus leaf cuticle, along with the parasitic feeding strategy of the extant Meliolaceae, suggest that a parasitic interaction between Buxus and M. buxi seems feasible. The distribution of modern Meliolaceae suggests that they live in warm, humid subtropical-tropical climates. It is possible that the presence of M. buxi indicates a similar climatic condition. The co-occurrence of large-leaf Buxus and floristic comparisons of the Ningming assemblage also corroborate this conclusion.