Fossil berries reveal global radiation of the nightshade family by the early Cenozoic

Rocío Deanna, Camila Martínez, Steven Manchester, Peter Wilf, Abel Campos, Sandra Knapp, Franco E. Chiarini, Gloria E. Barboza, Gabriel Bernardello, Hervé Sauquet, Ellen Dean, Andrés Orejuela, Stacey D. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Fossil discoveries can transform our understanding of plant diversification over time and space. Recently described fossils in many plant families have pushed their known records farther back in time, pointing to alternative scenarios for their origin and spread. Here, we describe two new Eocene fossil berries of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) from the Esmeraldas Formation in Colombia and the Green River Formation in Colorado (USA). The placement of the fossils was assessed using clustering and parsimony analyses based on 10 discrete and five continuous characters, which were also scored in 291 extant taxa. The Colombian fossil grouped with members of the tomatillo subtribe, and the Coloradan fossil aligned with the chili pepper tribe. Along with two previously reported early Eocene fossils from the tomatillo genus, these findings indicate that Solanaceae were distributed at least from southern South America to northwestern North America by the early Eocene. Together with two other recently discovered Eocene berries, these fossils demonstrate that the diverse berry clade and, in turn, the entire nightshade family, is much older and was much more widespread in the past than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2685-2697
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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