Natural Product Terpenoids in Eocene and Miocene Conifer Fossils

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Science  30 Aug 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5586, pp. 1543-1545
DOI: 10.1126/science.1074225

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Numerous saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons, but not polar compounds, originating from plants and microorganisms (biomarkers) have been reported in sediments, coals, and petroleum. Here we describe natural product terpenoids found in two fossil conifers, Taxodium balticum (Eocene) and Glyptostrobus oregonensis(Miocene). A similar terpenoid pattern is also observed in extantTaxodium distichum. The preservation of characteristic terpenoids (unaltered natural products) in the fossil conifers supports their systematic assignment to the Cypress family (Cupressaceae sensu lato). The results also show that fossil conifers can contain polar terpenoids, which are valuable markers for (paleo)chemosystematics and phylogeny.

  • * Present address: Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/Main, Institut für Mineralogie–Umweltanalytik, Georg-Voigt-Strasse 14, D-60054 Frankfurt/Main, Germany.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: a.otto{at}

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