A new species of Drynaria (Polypodiaceae) from the late Miocene of Yunnan, Southwest China and implications on the genus evolution


Drynarioid ferns comprise a large group in the Polypodiaceae family and are characterised by anastomosing venation and line of abscission between the pinna and the costa. In this paper, after morphological comparison with other ferns, we report and describe a new species, Drynaria diplosticha Y. Yu and S. P. Xie, sp. nov. from the upper Miocene sediments of the Bangmai Formation in Lincang City, Yunnan, China. This species is characterised by sori lining the midrib in two rows. The acute curvature of the midrib and the areolae at the base, as well as the slight decurrency, indicate that the fossil was connected to a costa. The occurrence of this fossil suggests that the climate in southwestern Yunnan during the late Miocene was humid and warm with clear seasonality influenced by monsoons which, based on other studies, were weaker than those experienced at present. Given that other Neogene drynarioid fossils (i.e. Drynaria cf. propinqua from the late Miocene and Drynaria callispora, Drynaria dimorpha, Drynaria lanpingensis from the late Pliocene) were reported exclusively from western Yunnan, that region might be a radiation centre of Drynaria in the Neogene where its extant species rapidly diversified and the distribution expanded. This may have been driven by the formerly proposed rapid topographic and climatic changes there. These Drynaria fossils may indicate that western Yunnan was one of the cradles of Drynarioid ferns during their early evolution.

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We would like to thank Dr. Torsten Utescher and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive advice.


This study is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41972008 and 31870200); the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program (STEP) (No. 2019QZKK0704); the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. XDB26000000) and the Foundation of the State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy, Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, CAS (No. 173126).

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Yu, Y., Xie, S., Devaney, J. et al. A new species of Drynaria (Polypodiaceae) from the late Miocene of Yunnan, Southwest China and implications on the genus evolution. Palaeobio Palaeoenv (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12549-020-00429-0

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  • Drynaria
  • Sori arrangement
  • Western Yunnan
  • Diversification
  • Seasonality