Scientists have discovered a fossilized flowering plant 80 million years old. It is reported by the University of Kansas.
This conclusion was made after studying a well-preserved fossil found in the 1990s in Sacramento , California. The fragment comes from the Late Cretaceous Chico Formation. It did not attract the attention of scientists and was placed in storage at the Sierra College Museum of Natural History.
Now scientist Brian Atkinson has examined the fragment and, he says, immediately recognized it as the fruit of a lamyid family , Icacinaceae , which is well known in younger deposits from the mass extinction 66 million years ago. During this extinction, dinosaurs (except birds) disappeared, as well as many other plant and animal species.
The scientist examined the structure of the fossil fruit using an optical microscope, which allowed him to take good quality photographs. By carefully examining the arrangement of the ridges, pits and tubercles on it, the author was able to make comparisons with previously described fossils in order to properly place it in the family tree. Placing the fossil plant in the genus Palaeophytocrene , Atkinson named the species chicoensis after the Chico Formation where it was found.
“The fossil belongs to a group of vines that complicate the structure of tropical forests. This shows us that this group of flowering plants appeared very early in the fossil record. There were some hypotheses that they existed in the Cretaceous period, but there was no clear evidence. This is an excellent indicator that the structurally complex tropical forests of the modern type could have existed already 80 million years ago, ”the scientist explains.
The plants of this group then evolved into many flowering plants and survived the cataclysm that killed the dinosaurs. It is from them that thousands of known modern species descend, including vital food crops for mankind like coffee, tomatoes and potatoes.
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