Determination of the molecular signature of fossil conifers by experimental palaeochemotaxonomy – Part 1: The Araucariaceae family
Abstract. Twelve species of the conifer family Araucariaceae, including Araucaria (6 species), Agathis (3 species) and Wollemia (1 species) genera, were submitted to artificial maturation by confined pyrolysis. The aim of these experiments is to transform the biomolecules synthesized by these species into their homologous geomolecules in laboratory conditions. Determination of the diagenetic molecular signatures of Araucariaceae through experimentation on extant representatives allows us to complete our knowledge in botanical palaeochemotaxonomy. Such knowledge is relevant to palaeoenvironmental, environmental and archaeology purposes. All artificially diagenetic species of Araucariaceae are firstly characterized by a predominance of saturated tetracyclic diterpenoids including ent-beyerane, phyllocladanes and ent-kauranes. Moreover, Araucaria genus shows a high relative abundance of bicyclic sesquiterpenoids, particularly the cadalane-type compounds accompanied by those of eudesmane and bisabolane types as well as chamazulene and pentamethyl-dihydroindenes. Diterpenoids are of labdane, isopimarane and abietane types (essentially derived from abietanoic acids) as well as isohexyl alkylaromatic hydrocarbons. Compared to the tetracyclic diterpenoids, these compounds show a relatively lower abundance, reaching trace levels in the case of saturated abietanes. Distributions of sesquiterpenoids and diterpenoids of Agathis show some similarities to that of Araucaria, with the exception of one species, in which the tetracyclic compounds are absent and the abietane type (essentially derived from abietanoic acids) predominant. High similarities between the Wollemia and Araucaria genera are observed. Both are characterized by some high relative abundance of tetracyclic compounds with no predominance of other specific diterpenoids.