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The Arecaceae are a botanical family of perennial lianas, shrubs, and trees commonly known as palm trees. (Due to historical usage, the family is alternatively called Palmae or Palmaceae.[3]) They are flowering plants, the only family in the monocot order Arecales. Roughly 202 genera with around 2600 species are currently known, most of them restricted to tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates. Most palms are distinguished by their large, compound, evergreen leaves arranged at the top of an unbranched stem. However, many palms are exceptions, and in fact exhibit an enormous diversity in physical characteristics. As well as being morphologically diverse, palms also inhabit nearly every type of habitat within their range, from rainforests to deserts.

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The Arecaceae are the first modern family of monocots clearly represented in the fossil record.Palms first appear in the fossil record around 80 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period. The first modern species, such as Nypa fruticans and Acrocomia aculeata, appeared 69-70 million years ago, confirmed by fossil Nypa pollen dated to 70 million years ago. Palms appear to have undergone an early period of adaptive radiation.[citation needed] By 60 million years ago, many of the modern, specialized genera of palms appeared and became widespread and common, much more widespread than their range today.[citation needed] Because palms separated from the monocots earlier than other families, they developed more intrafamilial specialization and diversity.[citation needed][clarification needed] By tracing back these diverse characteristics of palms to the basic structures of monocots, palms may be valuable in studying monocot evolution.Several species of palms have been identified from flowers preserved in amber, including Palaeoraphe dominicana and Roystonea palaea.

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