The fossil record of the Rhizophoraceae includes numerous questionable identifications from strata of unconfirmed age, together with others representing clear evidence of the family in deposits whose age is well constrained by independent or multiple lines of evidence. Bruguiera or the Bruguiera lineage, and Ceriops are known from the early Eocene, Kandelia from the middle Eocene, and Rhizophora from the late Eocene. Combretocarpus is likely present by the middle Miocene, but it belongs to a family (Anisophylleaceae) earlier placed in the Rhizophoraceae that is now considered unrelated to that family. Rhizophora, as a genus, has existed essentially uninterruptedly in the Caribbean region since the late Eocene, but cooling events at ca. 15–14 Ma, ca. 3.4 Ma, and ca. 1.6 Ma, and the subsequent 18 to 20 glacial intervals provide a mechanism for development of the cold(er) tolerant populations toward the northern part of its range in the New World. In reconstructing the biogeographic history of Rhizophora in the Caribbean region, it is worthwhile noting that molecular-defined lineages (with little morphological or palynological variation) may have been introduced and gone extinct on multiple occasions. This allows for variation in molecular patterns and apparent stasis in the fossil record—a possibility not widely considered in the literature. The most recent molecular-defined common ancestor to existing populations is estimated to have arrived in the New World ca. 11 Ma, using an origin in the Paleocene (ca. 60 Ma) as the basis for calculation.
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Vol. 93 • No. 2