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A microscope slide of Protosalvinia sp. at low magnification
Vital statistics
Scientific Name Protosalvinia
Period Devonian
Range USA

Protosalvinia ("early Salvinia") is a prehistoric plant found in shale from the shoreline habitats of the Devonian Period.


It is not currently known what type of plant Protosalvinia is. A possible interpretation is that it is a type of liverwort or brown alga,[1] although no specimens of brown algae are confirmed to have existed in the Paleozoic[2] and the fossils share no features common with modern brown algae.[3]

Living examples of Protosalvinia were thalli with short dichotomous branching. The branches of the largest species were up to one centimeter across. Protosalvinia had spores which were produced by meiosis.[4]


The name Protosalvinia is misleading. The name literally means "early Salvinia", and was given because it was believed that the fossils were an earlier form of the living aquatic fern Salvinia. It is no longer believed that the fossils come from a fern, but their true identity is still as of yet unknown.

There are four different species of Protosalvinia, and one synonym, Foerstia.[5]


  1. Niklas, Karl J. (1976). "Organic chemistry of Protosalvinia (=Foerstia) from the Chattanooga and New Albany Shales". Review of Paleobotany and Palynology 22 (4): 265–279. doi:10.1016/0034-6667(76)90026-9.
  2. Speer, B. R.; Waggoner, B. M. (2000). "Phaeophyta: Fossil Record".
  3. Taylor, W. A.; Taylor, T. N. (1987). "Spore wall ultrastructure of Protosalvinia". American Journal of Botany 74 (3): 437–433. doi:10.2307/2443819.
  4. Niklas, K. J.; Phillips, T. L. (1976). "Morphology of Protosalvinia from the Upper Devonian of Ohio and Kentucky". American Journal of Botany 63 (1): 9–29. doi:10.2307/2441665. JSTOR 2441665.
  5. Schopf, J. M. (1978). "Foerstia and recent interpretations of early, vascular land plants". Lethaia 11 (2): 139–143. doi:10.1111/j.1502-3931.1978.tb01298.x.