Ailanthus confucii

Martinetto, Edoardo & Macaluso, Loredana, 2018, Quantitative Application Of The Whole-Plant Concept To The Messinian - Piacenzian Flora Of Italy, Fossil Imprint 74 (1 - 2), pp. 77-100: 92-93

publication ID 10.2478/if-2018-0007

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scientific name

Ailanthus confucii


Ailanthus confucii   whole - plant

Ailanthus confucii UNGER   (fruit); possibly also cf. Ailanthus pythii (UNGER)   KOVAR- EDER et KVAČEK (leaf) Pl. 1, Figs 5–7

M a t e r i a l. Leaflets of cf. Ailanthus pythii   from Monte Tondo (14 specimens) and Tossignano (2 specimens) ( Teodoridis et al. 2015b)   . A single fruit of Ailanthus confucii   from Monte Castellaro. All findings from Messinian sites dated within the time range 6.5–5.6 Ma.

R e m a r k s. A single fruit of Messinian age, reported for the first time in this paper, testifies to the occurrence of the fossil-species Ailanthus confucii   in the Cenozoic of Italy. It is 33 mm long, has a v-shaped acute stylar scar in the middle of the seed, and an apparent ventral vein (see Su et al. 2013 for terminology). The distinction between fruits of A. confucii   and those of the modern species A. altissima   is not straightforward, the single differential character seems to be the acute versus obtuse fruit base ( Su et al. 2013); additionally, the deeper and acute stylar scar in A. confucii   should be evaluated as a character not present in A. altissima   . Leaves from another Messinian site, identified as “cf. Ailanthus pythii ” ( Teodoridis et al. 2015b)   , may doubtfully be referred to the same ancient whole-plant because they are comparable with the type material from the middle Miocene site Parschlug ( Kovar-Eder et al. 2004). However, the assignment may not be without problems as the leaves are also similar to “ Sapindus   falcifolius (A.BRAUN) A.BRAUN ( Teodoridis et al. 2015b)   . Leaflets of the same morphology were described as Ailanthus mecsekensis   by Hably (2001) from a fossiliferous layer at Magyaregregy in Hungary, with a mass occurrence of fruits assigned to Ailanthus confucii   . The fruit from Monte Castellaro is smaller than the largest Hungarian fossil fruits, but it fits within the range of size variation reported by Corbett and Manchester (2004) for this fossil-species which had a circumboreal distribution from the Eocene to the Miocene.

All members of the Ailanthus   phylogenetic clade ( Clayton et al. 2009) are trees of medium to large height, with opposite deciduous imparipinnate leaves, bearing clusters of centimetre-sized samaroid fruits. Because the genus Ailanthus   is a significantly isolated clade, distinct from the sister taxa, the fossil Ailanthus confucii   whole-plant was also certainly a tree with similar features (line of evidence ISA), and most probably shared several characteristics with the modern plant Ailanthus altissima ( Kowarik and Säumel 2007)   .


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