Remains of the extinct sphenophyte (horsetail) Neocalamites are most widespread in the Middle–Upper Triassic and are typically represented by stem and leaf fragments. Here we report on spectacular new finds of Neocalamites from the Late Triassic Yangcaogou Formation in Liaoning Province, China that include bedding surfaces dominated by nearly complete aerial stems with attached leaf whorls and rare bractless cones. They reveal a monopodial growth habit for the stems, which are covered with downward projecting prickles that probably provided protection against herbivores. These features provide the basis for a new proposed species, Neocalamites horridus. The nodes bear whorls of very long leaves mainly free to their bases, and one specimen bears an attached cone on a long peduncle. Identical dispersed cones have also been recovered. The leaves of adjacent monopodial stems most likely interlocked to support growth in large stands akin to the role now played by branches in large modern Equisetum species. The new Chinese Neocalamites is among the most confidently reconstructed species, and indicates a greater diversity of sphenophyte morphology during the Mesozoic than previously realized.
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National Museums Scotland
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Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology
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