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Keywords:

  • angiosperms;
  • morphotypes;
  • lower Upper Cretaceous;
  • palaeoecology;
  • South American floras;
  • Patagonia

Abstract:  This paper describes the diversity, taphonomy and palaeoecology of angiosperm leaves that dominate a palaeoflora of Cretaceous (Cenomanian–Coniacian) age from the Mata Amarilla Formation in the Austral Basin, south-west Patagonia, Argentina. Twelve morphotypes of angiosperm leaves are recognized based on foliar morphotype analysis of more than 500 specimens. These were divided into six morphological groups based on major architectural patterns. The relative dominance of these morphotypes, mode of preservation and relationship with sedimentary facies were evaluated from two levels within the formation. This analysis identified two different plant palaeocommunities. The lower, María Elena, level (MEL) was deposited in a marine coastal area on a subaerial delta plain; the dominant angiosperm morphotypes preserved in it are group 1 (MA100) and group 2 (MA101, 102); morphotypes MA109 and 110 are scarce but exclusive to this level. The upper, Mata Amarilla, level (MAL), accumulated inland in flood-plain environments; the most abundant angiosperm morphotypes are groups 3 (MA103–105), 4 (MA106) and 1 (MA100); morphotypes MA103–105 and 108 are exclusive to this level. Comparisons with other floras of similar age from Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand indicate that the Mata Amarilla flora has a slightly higher morphological diversity of angiosperm leaves, providing the first evidence for an angiosperm-dominated early Late Cretaceous macroflora in south-west Gondwana.