Modern cladistic analyses support earlier suggestions that the Hymenophylla
ceae (the "filmy ferns") are basal filicaleans. However, the fossil record
of the family is ambiguous. A new fossil fern, Hopetedia praetermissa gen.
et sp. nov., from the Upper Triassic Pekin Formation of North Carolina (USA
), is described and interpreted as the oldest unequivocal representative of
the Hymenophyllaceae based primarily on general frond morphology, indirect
evidence for a filmy (membranaceous) habit, and soral position and morphol
ogy. Particularly compelling as evidence for the hymenophyllaceous affinity
of H. praetermissa is the funneliform structure of the indusium (involucre
), which is similar to that found primarilly in the extant Trichomanes (sen
su lato) clade. However, the receptacle in H. praetermissa is relatively sh
ort and, thus, more like most representatives of the Hymenophyllum (sensu l
ato) clade. The Triassic age of this fossil is consistent with the basal or
near basal position of the Hymenophyllaceae in all recent phylogenetic ana
lyses of the filicalean ferns. Hopetedia preatermissa is evaluated in relat
ionship to several previous reports of fossil Hymenophyllaceae.