Fossil flower discovered that forces us to reconsider the evolution of plants

Chinese scientists recently reported that theyIn China, a fossil of an ancient flower was discovered. The most surprising thing about this find is its age, which leaves 164 million years. Of course, scientists sometimes find even older plant fossils. However, it was previously believed that flowering plants appeared at a later period. In other words, the find is the oldest specimen of a flower bud to date, which pushes the appearance of such plants to the Jurassic period (a time interval from 145 to 201 million years ago). The fossil, found in the Inner Mongolia region, is just over 4 cm long and 2 cm wide. The fossil includes a stem, a leafy branch, an onion-like fruit, and a small bud of the flower itself, measuring just a few square millimeters. The flower was given the name Florigerminis jurassica.

Fossil of flower found in China that shouldn't have existed

The oldest flowering plant - what is known about it

Plants are of two main types - flowering,which are also called angiosperms, as well as non-flowering, or gymnosperms. An examination of the flower bud and fruit of the found fossil showed that the plant belongs to an angiosperm, and not a gymnosperm, as one might assume, given its age.

Close-up of the fruit and flower bud of Florigerminis jurassica

The gymnosperm species prevailed in the Jurassic period.Angiosperms begin to appear much later, starting from the Cretaceous period (66 and 145 million years ago). Therefore, scientists were sure that such plants did not yet exist in the Jurassic period. However, the latest find, which was detailed in The Geological Society, suggests otherwise.

“The fossil surprised many paleobotanists as it contradicts what is written in the books,” says senior study author Xin Wang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Angiosperms may have been common in the Jurassic

According to the researchers, thethe fossil is far from being the most ancient specimen of the flower. In 2008, another fossil was discovered that is 174 million years old. It was a flower of the genus Nanjinganthus, which was also found in China. However, unlike the last find, not everything is so simple with this plant.

Scientists are not sure what Nanjinganthusis indeed an angiosperm. The fact is that the discovered flowers, as the researchers say, are quite simple in their design, so they do not differ much from leaf structures. In addition, the flowers themselves are very delicate, so it is difficult for them to petrify, retaining their structure. For this reason, they are difficult to distinguish from other plant material. But, if scientists do not have a clear answer regarding Nanjinganthus, then F. jurassica does not raise any doubts - this is really an angiosperm plant.

“The fossil find proves the presence of angiosperms in the Jurassic period. Therefore, a rethinking of the evolution of angiosperms is required,” the authors write.

According to Xin Wang, to the species of angiospermsmay include other Jurassic plants such as Juraherba, Jurafructus, Yuhania, Schmeissneria and Xingxueanthus. Previously, scientists considered them gymnosperms only for the reason that they date from the Jurassic period. However, without having their well-preserved fossils, nothing can be said.

174-million-year-old Nanjinganthus plant could be an angiosperm

Why Jurassic Flowers Haven't Been Discovered Before

As the experts say, if we assume thatangiosperms grew up to the Cretaceous period, they were few in comparison with gymnosperms. And, most likely, they met only in a certain area. All this suggests that the likelihood of finding a well-preserved flower fossil is extremely low. As we discussed earlier, the process of petrification itself is quite complex and rarely happens.

Subscribe to our Pulse, where you will find even more interesting materials.

Possibly the discovered fossil plant F.Jurassica is an evolutionary link between older plants such as Nanjinganthus and later ones whose fossils date back to the Cretaceous.

Finally, I note that recently scientistsfind many interesting fossils that give us ideas about ancient animals, plants and insects. Not so long ago we talked about a centipede that is over 300 million years old, as long as a car.