Original paper

Monographing the Pliocene and early Pleistocene carpofloras of Italy: methodological challenges and current progress

Martinetto, Edoardo


The fruits and seeds unearthed from Pliocene and early Pleistocene deposits of Italy sum up to millions of specimens from over 50 sites, which have not yet been treated in a comprehensive way. To make all the information contained in these palaeofloras accessible, a monographic investigation similar to those published by Dieter Hans Mai and Harald Walther will be needed; including a very detailed taxonomic and nomenclatural framework. The present paper is the first step towards a monographic investigation of the Pliocene and early Pleistocene floras of Italy, limited to a thorough taxonomic and nomenclatural revision of the carpological material of 19 species belonging to the Pinaceae (Picea florschuetzii, Pinus sylvestris subsp. pliocaenica), Betulaceae (Carpinus betulus subsp. 1, Corylus avellana), Cornaceae (Cornus maii sp. nov.), Eucommiaceae (Eucommia europaea), Fagaceae (Quercus cf. robur, Fagus deucalionis), Hamamelidaceae (Parrotia cf. persica, Parrotia reidiana), Hydrocharitaceae (Stratiotes intermedius), Juglandaceae (Carya globosa, Cyclocarya nucifera, Pterocarya limburgensis, Juglans bergomensis), Lamiaceae (Ajuga antiqua), Magnoliaceae (Liriodendron geminata), Menyanthaceae (Menyanthes trifoliata), and incertae sedis (Carpolites pliocucurbitinus nom. nov.). Several taxa inequivocally represent extinct species, often belonging to genera that disappeared from Europe. Other taxa, found to be morphologically very similar but not identical to modern European species, were either treated as extinct species or as fossil-subspecies of modern species. In various cases, the fossil record illustrates a morphological transition from the fruits and seeds of a fossil-taxon to those of a modern species. Only in two cases the fossil remains were considered identical to those of a modern species, since the morphology and its variation in the fossil assemblages were the same as that observed in several modern individuals and populations of that modern species. Finally, open nomenclature has been used for fossils with poorly diagnostic characters or represented by scarce material.


Carpoflora; taxonomy; Betulaceae; Cornaceae; Eucommiaceae; Fagaceae; Hamamelidaceae; Hydrocharitaceae; Juglandaceae; Lamiaceae; Magnoliaceae; Menyanthaceae; Pinaceae; nomenclature; Pliocene and early Pleistocene; Italy