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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


LEPPE, MARCELO et al. Evolution of the Austral-Antarctic flora during the Cretaceous: New insights from a paleobiogeographic perspective. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2012, vol.85, n.4, pp.369-392. ISSN 0716-078X.

Forest environments have continuously existed in Antarctica since the late Paleozoic and only disappeared from this continent since the Neogene. Nevertheless, the structure of these forests underwent substantial evolutionary changes. During the late Cretaceous, forests dominated by conifers and pteridophytes were gradually replaced by angiosperm-dominated forests. Elements common to these Antarctic forests are important constituents of the recent Valdivian Forest. During the Turonian stage of the Late Cretaceous, the Antarctic Peninsula and Patagonia were reconnected by a land bridge after a separation since the end of the Jurassic. Using biogeographic tools applied to the palynological and leaf imprint record, outcrops of Campanian-Maastrichtian age were studied from the Snow Hill, James Ross and Seymour (Marambio) Islands in the James Ross basin, Antarctica; Skua Bay, Half Three Point, Price Point and Zamek Hill on King George Island, Antarctica, and Rocallosa Point, Cerro Guido, Las Chinas, Dorotea Hill, Cazador Hill and La Irene in Chilean-Argentinian Patagonia, comparing the current distribution and the paleogeography, as well as the influence of potential areas of endemism and vicariants events. The analysis indicates that vegetation evolved under environmental conditions subject to intense volcanic and climatic disturbances, with changes from a period with extreme greenhouse climate (Turonian-Campanian) to strong cooling during the Maastrichtian. We suggest that a continuous forest existed in southern South America and Antarctica, which was shaped during the Latest Cretaceous by the presence of marine basins and and intermittent connection and disconnection of the flora.

Keywords : Antarctica; Cretaceous; Magellan's basin; paleobotany; Patagonia.

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