Montsechia/Oscard Sanisidro From Indiana University,
Indiana University paleobotanist David Dilcher and colleagues in Europe have identified a 125 million- to 130 million-year-old freshwater plant as one of earliest flowering plants on Earth.
The finding, reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represents a major change in the presumed form of one of the planet’s earliest flowers, known as angiosperms.
“This discovery raises significant questions about the early evolutionary history of flowering plants, as well as the role of these plants in the evolution of other plant and animal life,” said Dilcher, an emeritus professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Geological Sciences.
“Montsechia possesses no obvious ‘flower parts,’ such as petals or nectar-producing structures for attracting insects, and lives out its entire life cycle under water,” he said. “The fruit contains a single seed” — the defining characteristic of an angiosperm — “which is borne upside down.”
In terms of appearance, Dilcher said, Montsechia resembles its most modern descendent, identified in the study as Ceratophyllum. Also known as coontails or hornworts, Ceratophyllum is a dark green aquatic plant whose coarse, tufty leaves make it a popular decoration in modern aquariums and koi ponds. More.
Note: Wonder how long it will be before someone comes up with an earlier flowering plant?
See also: Horizontal gene transfer from moss [the hornwort descendant this fossil resembles] to ferns
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