Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fossil is best look yet at an ancestor of buttercups

01.04.2011
Scientists from the United States and China have discovered the first intact fossil of a mature eudicot, a type of flowering plant whose membership includes buttercups, apple trees, maple trees, dandelions and proteas. The 125 million-year-old find, described in this week's Nature, reveals a remarkably developed species, leading the scientists to argue for an earlier origin of the eudicots -- and perhaps flowering plants in general.

"This fossil opens up a new way of thinking about the evolution of some of the first flowering plants," said Indiana University Bloomington biologist David Dilcher, the Nature paper's American coauthor. "We are also beginning to understand that the explosive radiation of all flowering plants about 111 million years ago has had a long history that began with the slower diversification of many families of eudicots over 10, perhaps 15 million years earlier."


This 125 million-year-old fossil of a eudicot is the earliest, most complete to date. It was named Leefructus mirus by a group of scientists that includes IU Bloomington biologist David Dilcher. Credit: Zhiduan Chen

An image of the fossil was selected as Nature's cover.

Dilcher and his Chinese colleagues Ge Sun and Hongshan Wang (Shenyang Normal University) and Zhiduan Chen (Chinese Academy of Sciences) named the fossilized plant Leefructus mirus in honor of Li Shiming, a non-scientist who donated the fossil to Ge Sun's new museum of paleontology in Liaoning Province, China. Ge Sun was the project's principal investigator.

The fossil shows the above-ground portion of a mature plant. A single stem leads to five leaves, and one leads to a fully developed flower. The entire fossil is about 16 cm (6.3 in) tall. Leaves are innervated by branching veins, and the small, cup-shaped flower has five petals.

"I think Leefructus had attractive flowers to advertise for pollinators to visit," said Dilcher, when asked to speculate. "There were no bees at this time, so I think that flies, beetles or extinct types of moths or scorpion flies may have been involved in its pollination. Leefructus was found in the volcanic ash beds of an ancient lake. I think it was living near a lake, perhaps in a wet or marshy area much as buttercups do today."

The scientists' analysis of the plant's form leads them to believe Leefructus should be placed among the Ranunculaceae, an old family of eudicots that includes buttercups and crowroot plants.

"When we look at the branching relationships of the tree for this group, the Ranunculaceae is at the end of several branches going to the other families, such as the poppies," Dilcher said. "As a result, we believe that prior to 122 to 124 million years ago, several families of flowering plants had already begun to diverge. How much older the eudicots are we do not know yet, but this fossil suggests their origin certainly goes further back in the Cretaceous, perhaps even into the Jurassic."

The profusion of flowering plant species in the second half of the Mesozoic Era, the age of dinosaurs, eventually led to flowers' domination of other types of plants in all but Earth's harshest climates. Evolutionary biologists believe the diversification of flowering plants also supported the radiation of a wide range of animal species, particularly pollinators and seed eaters, from beetles and bees to hummingbirds and bats.

Until now, most fossil information about the earliest eudicots has come from fossilized pollen, the plant equivalent of sperm. Despite pollen's small size, pollen grains have provided crucial information to paleontologists. But pollen can only tell scientists so much.

"What we know about the earliest eudicots comes from a few pollen records off the coast of West Africa and the lower Cretaceous sediments in southern England about 127 million years before present," Dilcher said. "We can learn a lot from pollen, but the Leefructus fossil shows us that there is no substitute for a megafossil record if we are to understand the evolution of early flowering plants."

The age of the Leefructus fossil was determined by analyzing the ages of surrounding rock via Argon 40/39 and Uranium-Lead dating methods.

This research was supported by grants from the Chinese Ministry of Education, the "111" Project, China's National Natural Science Foundation, and Shenyang Normal University.

To speak with Dilcher, please contact David Bricker, University Communications, at 812-856-9035 or brickerd@indiana.edu.

David Bricker | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.indiana.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

nachricht Modeling magma to find copper
13.01.2017 | Université de Genève

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>