Flowers’ First Bloom Captured in Fossil Record

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A scientist has been searching for the origin of flowering plants, which evolved to dominate our landscape and define life as we know it. He reports his findings in a new study that pushes back the date of the earliest flower by 100 million years, to a period when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Twenty-five years ago, geologist Peter Hochuli was on an expedition in Norway when he made a discovery in a sediment core – a long round sample of soil or rock – that puzzled him.  


“And there I found first these amazing pollen grains which looked to me like the ones that I knew from the Cretaceous,” he said.



That is the relatively warm geological period 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs dominated the landscape, and scientists believe new groups of mammals and birds, as well as flowering plants, appeared. The problem was that he had dated the core to the Triassic, or 100 million years earlier in earth’s history.  



“But for many of my colleagues, it didn’t fit the picture that these pollen are occurring in the middle Triassic. So I thought they were contaminants, and I suspected that they came from the lab. In the lab they also prepared Cretaceous sediments. So I also thought they made kind of a mess,” said Hochuli.



But he does not think so anymore. Now a paleo-botanist at the University of Zurich, Hochuli has focused his research on finding the origin of flowering plants, which evolved from extinct plants related to today’s conifers, seed ferns and pollen.

Written By: Rosanne Skirble
continue to source article at voanews.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. The early dinosaurs were specialised to eat coniferous foliage. I read somewhere they had trouble with deciduous foliage, even though to us it seems easier to digest. How about the flowering plants?

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      The early dinosaurs were specialised to eat coniferous foliage. I read somewhere they had trouble with deciduous foliage, even though to us it seems easier to digest. How about the flowering plants?

      They used to think they appeared about the same time dinosaurs went extinct which led to speculation that they may have had an impact of their extinction. I suppose this knocks that over or puts it in the category of taking advantage of the situation after the asteroid strike. Possible I suppose that offering a reward and having insects which can fly many kilometres to find another patch of flowers in a sparsely populated (post asteroid impact) landscape would have given them a real boost.

  2. @OP – “And there I found first these amazing pollen grains which looked to me like the ones that I knew from the Cretaceous,” he said.

    That is the relatively warm geological period 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs dominated the landscape, and scientists believe new groups of mammals and birds, as well as flowering plants, appeared. The problem was that he had dated the core to the Triassic, or 100 million years earlier in earth’s history.

    This is suggesting that the evolution of flowering plants (angiosperms via gymnosperms) from spore-bearing plants, started much earlier than previously thought.

    http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/pciesiel/gly3150/plant.html

    • After the 1st land plants evolved (approximately 450 m.y.a.) they underwent rapid expansion and radiation with great forests by Middle Devonian Period. (385 m.y.a.). Although these forests were limited in their extent, vast quantities of organic material were deposited and preserved in swampy environments. Through time and burial, this organic material was converted to coal, forming the first significant coal deposits of Earth history.
    • At a similar time (late Devonian, ~375-360 m.y.a.), seed bearing gymnosperm plants (non-flowering) evolved. The development of the seed allowed plants to proliferate and spread to drier areas of continents. Gymnosperms became the dominant plant type between ~290 to 145 m.y.a. and are still common today.
    • During the final days of the dinosaurs (Cretaceous), the final chapter of plant evolution began. This was the evolution of flowering plants (angiosperms). During the Cretaceous Period, angiosperms began overcoming non-flowering plants as the dominant land plants. Since this time they have become the dominant land plants.

    The term ** “non-flowering”**, is slightly misleading, as these (seed bearing gymnosperm plants) were (and are), wind pollinated.

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