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NEW AMBER DEPOSIT PROVIDES EVIDENCE OF EARLY PALEOGENE EXTINCTIONS, PALEOCLIMATES, AND PAST DISTRIBUTIONS

  • George Poinar (a1), Bruce Archibald (a2) and Alex Brown (a3)
Abstract

A large, previously unstudied amber deposit in British Columbia dating from the Early to Middle Eocene (50−55 Ma) provides a noteworthy new source of terrestrial invertebrates and other life forms. This deposit contains what are likely the earliest unequivocal ants (members of the family Formicidae), including extinct representatives of Technomyrmex Mayr 1872, Leptothorax Mayr 1855, and Dolichoderus Lund 1831. Discovering Technomyrmex and a corydiinid cockroach, both of which are currently restricted to tropical regions, confirms earlier evidence of warm paleoclimates and past biogeographic distributions in the early Paleogene. Chemical analysis of the amber indicates that the source tree was an araucarian belonging to or near the genus Agathis Salisbury 1807, and demonstrates that this genus survived into the Tertiary in the Northern Hemisphere, since previous records revealed Agathis as a component only of the Cretaceous forests in North America. Comparing the Hat Creek fossil assemblages in this deposit with those from the well-studied western Canadian Late Cretaceous amber deposits offers a unique opportunity to study extinction and speciation events on both sides of the Cretaceous–Tertiary boundary.

En Colombie-Britannique, un important gisement d’ambre encore jamais examiné et remontant au début-milieu de l’Eocène (50–55 Ma) a mis en lumière une nouvelle source d’invertébrés terrestres et d’autres formes d’organismes. Le gisement contient probablement les plus anciennes vraies fourmis (membres de la famille des Formicidae), dont des représentants maintenant disparus des genres Technomyrmex Mayr 1872, Leptothorax Mayr 1855 et Dolichoderus Lund 1831. La découverte de Technomyrmex et d’une blatte corydiinide, tous deux maintenant restreints aux régions tropicales, confirme l’existence de paléoclimats chauds et met en lumière les répartitions biogéographiques telles qu’elles étaient au début du Paléogène. Une analyse chimique a révélé que l’arbre à l’origine de l’ambre est un araucarien appartenant au genre Agathis Salisbury 1807 ou à un genre apparenté, et prouve que le genre a survécu jusqu’au Tertiaire dans l’hémisphère nord, puisque des données antérieures ont démontré qu’Agathis n’existait que dans les forêts du Crétacé en Amérique du Nord. Par comparaison des associations de fossiles de Hat Creek dans ce gisement à ceux des gisements bien connus de l’ouest canadien à la fin du Crétacé nous sommes en mesure d’étudier l’histoire des extinctions et spéciations de part et d’autre de la démarcation Crétacé–Tertiaire.

[Traduit par la Rédaction]

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The Canadian Entomologist
  • ISSN: 0008-347X
  • EISSN: 1918-3240
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-entomologist
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