The Belén flora, in north coastal Peru, is the most diverse fruit and seed assemblage known from the Paleogene of South America. Almost no original paleobotanical work has been done on this assemblage since the pioneering treatments published by E.W. Berry, in the 1920’s and the precise age has not been settled. Nevertheless, the flora has been regarded as an important focal point in understanding the vegetational, orogenic and climatic history of northern South America, and in recent literature has been assumed to be early Eocene. In order to tighten the age assignment, which has varied from early Eocene to early Oligocene in the opinions of different authors, we revisited the Belén site, measured the stratigraphic section, and processed the fruit and seed-containing sediment for age-diagnostic microfossils. Although pollen and foraminifera were not recovered, the sediment is rich in diatoms. The diatom assemblage includes Lisitzinia ornata and Rocella vigilans among others, indicating a latest early Oligocene age (~30-28.5 Ma) for these deeper marine sediments that we infer to have been subsequently reworked into the Belén environment . This association leads us to consider the Belén flora, to be late Oligocene in age as is also consistent with its placement in the Mancora Formation. We also reevaluate the botanical identifications, based on the original museum specimens supplemented by more recently collected specimens. The Belén flora provides a window to extinct forests in South America before the rising of the Andes in western Peru.
Additional Publication Details
Oligocene age of the classic Belén fruit and seed assemblage of north coastal Peru based on diatom biostratigraphy