Notes on Fossil Seeds

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Fossil material of plants can be difficult to identify as to species, genus, or larger taxonomic unit, as usually what is found is individual parts of plants, such as wood, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds or pollen, and these are often insufficient for identification, particularly for older material which is less closely related to modern material, and may be less well preserved. Consequently, and as fossils of one plant part often cannot be unambigiously associated with those of another plant part, palaeobotanists use form genera to classify parts of plants of uncertain taxonomic position. For fossil seeds the suffix -spermum is often used in generic names, indicating a similarity with the seeds of the modern genus whose name is combined with the suffix. It cannot be assumed that the fossil seeds represent a species particularly close to the modern genus.


Pterospermites lunulatus Heer and Pterospermites vagans Heer was introduced for winged seeds from the Tertiary of Switzerland. They are now interpreted as seeds of the fossil conifer Glyptostrobus europaeus [1, 2]. The generic name Pterospermites has also been used by the same and other authors for leaf fossils.


The genus Saportaspermum H.Mey & Manchester and species Saportaspermum occidentale (as occidentalis) were introduced for winged seeds of uncertain origin from the Oligocene of Oregon (John Day Fm).

Saportaspermum dieteri is described from the Early Oligocene of Saxony. It is a winged seed about 25mm long and 7mm wide, with a seed body elliptic about 1/3rd as long as whole seed. It is compared with the seeds of Reevesia, but the authors don't place is any more narrowly than an dicot. [3]

Saportaspermum kovacsieae is described ...


  1. Brown, Roland Wilbur, Palaeocene Flora of the Rocky Moutains and Great Plains, Geological Survey Professional Paper 375 (1962)
  2. LePage, Ben A., The Taxonomy and Biogeographic History of Glyptostrobus Endlicher (Cupressaceae), Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 48(2): 359-426 (2009)
  3. Walther, Harald & Zlatki Kvaček, Early Oligocene Flora of Seifhennersdorf (Saxony), Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae B 63(2-4): 85-174 (2007)

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