Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fossilized Cashew Nuts Reveal Europe Was Important Route Between Africa And South America

Date:
October 22, 2007
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
Cashew nut fossils have been identified in 47-million year old lake sediment in Germany, revealing that the cashew genus Anacardium was once distributed in Europe, remote from its modern 'native' distribution in Central and South America. It was previously proposed that Anacardium and its African sister genus, Fegimanra, diverged from their common ancestor when the landmasses of Africa and South America separated. However, this groundbreaking new data indicate that Europe may be an important biogeographic link between Africa and the New World.

Cashew nut fossils have been identified in 47-million year old lake sediment in Germany, revealing that the cashew genus Anacardium was once distributed in Europe, remote from its modern "native" distribution in Central and South America. It was previously proposed that Anacardium and its African sister genus, Fegimanra, diverged from their common ancestor when the landmasses of Africa and South America separated. However, groundbreaking new data in the October issue of the International Journal of Plant Sciences indicate that Europe may be an important biogeographic link between Africa and the New World.

"The occurrence of cashews in both Europe and tropical America suggests that they were distributed in both North America and Europe during the Tertiary and spread across the North Atlantic landbridge that linked North America and Europe by way of Greenland before the rifting and divergence of these landmasses," explain Steven R. Manchester (University of Florida), Volker Wilde (Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Sektion Palaeobotanik, Frankfurt am Main, Germany), and Margaret E. Collinson (Royal Holloway University of London, UK). "They apparently became extinct in northern latitudes with climatic cooling near the end of the Tertiary and Quaternary but were able to survive at more southerly latitudes."

The cashew family (Anacardiaceae) includes trees, shrubs, and climbers prominent in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates around the world. A key feature is an enlarged hypocarp, or fleshy enlargement of the fruit stalk, which is a specialized structure known only in the cashew family.

The researchers examined possible fossil remains found in the Messel oil shales, near Darmstadt, Germany, which are dated to about 47 million years before the present and reveal the presence of a "conspicuously thickened" stalk. In four out of five specimens, this hypocarp was still firmly attached to the nut, indicating that the two were dispersed as a unit. According to the researchers, the size and shape of the hypocarp -- like a teardrop and two or three times longer than it is wide -- support its assignation to the Anacardium genus, common to South America, rather than the African Fegimanra genus, though the fossils have features common to both.

"The occurrence of Anacardium in the early Middle Eocene of Germany suggests . . . that the two genera [Anacardium and Fegimanra] diverged after dispersal between Europe and Africa," the researchers write. "Presumably, Anacardium traversed the North American landbridge during the Early or Middle Eocene, at a time of maximal climatic warmth, when higher latitudes were habitable by frost-sensitive plants."

The astoundingly close similarity between the fossil and modern day Anacardium also indicates little evolutionary change to the cashew since the mid-Eocene period: "Although cashews have been cultivated for human consumption for centuries, it is clear that they were in existence millions of years before humans. The cashew had already evolved more than 45 million years ago, apparently in association with biotic dispersers," they write.

A major outlet for botanical research since 1875, the International Journal of Plant Sciences presents the results of original, peer-reviewed investigations from laboratories around the world in all areas of the plant sciences. Topics covered include genetics and genomics, developmental and cell biology, biochemistry and physiology, morphology and structure, systematics, plant-microbe interactions, paleobotany, evolution, and ecology.

Steven R. Manchester, Volker Wilde, and Margaret E. Collinson, "Fossil Cashew Nuts from the Eocene of Europe: Biogeographic Links Between Africa and South America." International Journal of Plant Sciences 68(8):1199-1206.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Fossilized Cashew Nuts Reveal Europe Was Important Route Between Africa And South America." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071017131837.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2007, October 22). Fossilized Cashew Nuts Reveal Europe Was Important Route Between Africa And South America. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071017131837.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Fossilized Cashew Nuts Reveal Europe Was Important Route Between Africa And South America." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071017131837.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

AFP (Sep. 25, 2014) American doctor and photographer Jeff Gusky reveals the underground quarries used by the soldiers of World War One, and the artwork they left behind which illustrates their hopes and fears. Duration: 02:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins