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Tree fern, once considered “evolutionary dead-end,” turns out to have been advanced

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Much better fossils were located in China:

Noeggerathiales were important peat-forming plants that lived around 325 to 251 million years ago. Understanding their relationships to other plant groups has been limited by poorly preserved examples until now.

The fossils found in China have allowed experts to work out that Noeggerathiales are more closely related to seed plants than to other fern groups.

No longer considered an evolutionary dead-end, they are now recognized as advanced tree-ferns that evolved complex cone-like structures from modified leaves. Despite their sophistication, Noeggerathiales fell victim to the profound environmental and climate changes of 251 million years ago that destroyed swamp ecosystems globally.

University of Birmingham, “‘Pompeii of prehistoric plants’ unlocks evolutionary secret” at ScienceDaily

Curiously, we keep finding that ancient life forms were more complex or advanced than thought, not that they were simpler and more primitive than thought. What does that imply about the drivers of our expectations?

The plants were preserved in a bed of volcanic ash, hence the reference to Pompeii, a city that met the same fate in 79 AD.

The paper is open access.

>Curiously, we keep finding that ancient life forms were more complex or advanced than thought, not that they were simpler and more primitive than thought. Their theories and predictions nicely fit my hypothesis that we come up with (and then settle for) the simplest theories that fit the data we know about and can understand at the time. Newtonian mechanics was thought to be the ultimate explanation, until relativity came along. But it fit the bill at the time, and was simple. Theories have to be simple enough that we can understand them, or they won't even be accepted. Living things, on the other hand, are more complex than anyone yet knows. So this trend of underestimating life's complexity will continue for some time to come. EDTA
The 'dead-end' theme also occurs in the much shorter archeology of invention and technology. Just as all genes, all purposes, were present at the first creation, all broad ideas, all dreams of things that we want, are innate. There are brief periods when some of those innate ideas get implemented. The most recent Cambrian explosion was 1830 to 1906. After 1906, nothing. We've been losing most of the good stuff and falsely reinventing things that were already patented before 1906. We consider early ideas to be 'dead ends', until somebody with sufficient CoolPower falsely reinvents them. Now they're brand new, never imagined before. We're like Huxley's Gammas. Every command from the elite is a brand new moment, a joyous discovery. Roof! Oh Roof! polistra

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