Jurassic Fossils From Northeastern China Reveal Morphological Stasis in the Catkin-Yew

Related Articles

The Taxaceae are a distinct conifer family widely used in ornamental horticulture and are an important source of chemotherapeutic drugs (e.g., Paclitaxel).

Fossil evidence of Taxaceae is based mainly on isolated leaves or leafy shoots for which the reproductive structures are unknown. However, several more complete fossils with attached seed-bearing structures show that Taxaceae had diverged from other conifers by the earliest Jurassic and were probably diverse during the Jurassic and Cretaceous.

Dong and colleagues add to knowledge of early Taxaceae based on well-preserved fossils from the Middle-Late Jurassic (~160 Myr) Daohugou Bed in eastern Inner Mongolia, northeastern China. The material includes the terminal portion of a leafy shoot with attached seed-bearing structures, and a leafy shoot with two-orders of branching in which each ultimate shoot has a terminal conical bud. The fossil leafy shoots have opposite and decussate leaves. Attached seed-bearing structures arise singly from the axil of a normal vegetative leaf and consist of a short, naked axis bearing a single terminal seed that is enclosed by pairs of opposite and decussate bracts.


These fossils bear a striking resemblance to the leafy shoots and seed-bearing structures of extant catkin-yews Amentotaxus and only differ in having shorter seed-bearing axes. Assignment of the fossils to the living genus is also supported by cladistic analyses based on morphological characters of living and fossil Taxaceae.

These fossils are among the most completely known of all fossil Taxaceae. Extant catkin-yews are endangered and have very restricted distributions in Eastern Asia. The Daohugou fossils document that among the diverse extinct Mesozoic Taxaceae were ancient catkin-yews. Like Ginkgo biloba, the catkin-yews are living fossils that have undergone little morphological change since the Middle-Late Jurassic.


Header Image Credit : Science China Press

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


10 British Iron Age Hill Forts

A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage.

Stabiae – The Roman Resort Buried by Mount Vesuvius

Stabiae was an ancient Roman town and seaside resort near Pompeii, that was largely buried during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius in present-day Italy.

Astronomers Accurately Measure the Temperature of Red Supergiant Stars

Red supergiants are a class of star that end their lives in supernova explosions. Their lifecycles are not fully understood, partly due to difficulties in measuring their temperatures. For the first time, astronomers develop an accurate method to determine the surface temperatures of red supergiants.

Researchers Overturn Hypothesis That Ancient Mammal Ancestors Moved Like Modern Lizards

The backbone is the Swiss Army Knife of mammal locomotion. It can function in all sorts of ways that allows living mammals to have remarkable diversity in their movements.

Archaeologists Discover one of Poland’s Largest Megalithic Tomb Complexes

Archaeologists excavating in Poland have discovered a large megalithic complex, containing several dozen tombs dating from 5500 years ago.

New Technology Allows Scientists First Glimpse of Intricate Details of Little Foot’s Life

In June 2019, an international team brought the complete skull of the 3.67-million-year-old Little Foot Australopithecus skeleton, from South Africa to the UK and achieved unprecedented imaging resolution of its bony structures and dentition in an X-ray synchrotron-based investigation at the UK's national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source.

Neandertals Had Capacity to Perceive and Produce Human Speech

Neandertals -- the closest ancestor to modern humans -- possessed the ability to perceive and produce human speech, according to a new study published by an international multidisciplinary team of researchers including Binghamton University anthropology professor Rolf Quam and graduate student Alex Velez.

Almost 600 Cats and Dogs Excavated in Ancient Pet Cemetery

Excavations of the early Roman port of Berenice in Egypt have unearthed the remains of nearly 600 cats and dogs from an ancient pet cemetery thought to be the earliest known yet discovered dating from 2000 years ago.

Popular stories

Ani – The Abandoned Medieval City

Ani is a ruined medieval city, and the former capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom, located in the Eastern Anatolia region of the Kars province in present-day Turkey.

Interactive Map of Earth’s Asteroid and Meteor Impact Craters

Across the history of our planet, around 190 terrestrial impact craters have been identified that still survive the Earth’s geological processes, with the most recent event occurring in 1947 at the Sikhote-Alin Mountains of south-eastern Russia.

The Sunken Town of Pavlopetri

Pavlopetri, also called Paulopetri, is a submerged ancient town, located between the islet of Pavlopetri and the Pounta coast of Laconia, on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece.

Exploring the Avebury Stone Circle Landscape

The area was designated part of the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites by UNESCO in 1986, in recognition for one of the most architecturally sophisticated stone circles in the world, in addition to the rich Neolithic, and Bronze age remains found nearby, such as the West Kennet Avenue, Beckhampton Avenue, West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, and Windmill Hill.