Controversial fruit-like remains from the Lower Cretaceous of the Middle East

Valentin Krassilov, Zeev Lewy, Eviatar Nevo

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The marginal marine Lower Aptian deposits of Makhtesh Ramon, Israel contain abundant fruit-like fossils of the type previously described from the Dakhla Basin, southern Egypt as Leguminocarpon abbubalense Lejal-Nicol, 1981, which supposedly represent remains of early angiosperms. On the basis of new finds from the gastropod beds of the Hatira Formation, Israel, these fossils are re-interpreted as cones of succulent scales subtending large seeds. The arrangement of cones on rock slabs indicates their clustering at successive nodes of a branching axis. The scales show a coarse reticulate network of sclerotic fibres and a thick, supposedly water-storing, palisade tissue of tracheid-like cells. Large, slightly curved, seeds are exposed in slits between gaping scales. The seed coat consists of an outer spongy layer that is only patchily preserved, a longitudinally ridged middle layer that is truncated below the apex, and an apically protruding inner layer forming a thick bulge at the base of the micropylar tube. Abundant remains of detached scales and seeds suggest disintegration of ripe cones. The fruit-like fossils are described under the new name Afrasita lejalnicoliae gen. et sp. nov. and compared to extant gnetophytes and the Mesozoic Vardekloeftia Harris, 1932, Gurvanella Krassilov, 1982 and Eoantha Krassilov, 1986, the latter two being related to gnetophytes. There is evidence of insect fluid feeding on the ovules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-707
Number of pages11
JournalCretaceous Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the reviewers and editor for their constructive comments on the manuscript. Krassilov was supported by the Russian Foundation of Basic Research, grant no. 03-05-64794.


  • Cretaceous, Israel
  • Fossil plants
  • Gnetophytes
  • Plant morphology
  • Plant palaeoecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Paleontology


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