The tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipfera, has been considered part of the magnolia family. But David Dilcher of Indiana University Bloomington and Mikhail S. Romanov of the N.V. Tsitsin Main Botanical Garden in Moscow show that it is closely related to fossil plant specimens from the Lower Cretaceous period.
This is an artist's reconstruction of Archaeanthus from fossils.
Credit: Courtesy David Dilcher
Their findings suggest the tulip tree line diverged from magnolias more than 100 million years ago and constitutes an independent family, Liriodendraceae, with two living species: one in the Eastern United States and the other in Eastern China. The article, "Fruit structure in Magnoliaceae s.l. and Archaeanthus and their relationships," appears in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Botany.
The tulip tree, sometimes called tulip poplar or yellow poplar, is one of the largest trees of Eastern North America, sometimes reaching more than 150 feet in height. It is native from southern New England westward to Michigan and south to Louisiana and Florida.
Dilcher, an IU professor emeritus of geological sciences and biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, discovered fossil flowers and fruits resembling those of magnolias and tulip trees in 1975 in Kansas. Dilcher and Peter Crane, now the dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, published information about the fossils and named the plant Archaeanthus.
But the relationship between the fossils and any living plant species remained a mystery until Dilcher met and began working with Romanov, who specializes in study of the magnolia family and its relatives. The researchers used advanced technologies of light, scanning electron and polarizing microscopy to develop a more detailed picture of the Archaeanthus flowers, fruits and seeds and compare them with the flowers, fruits and seeds of contemporary plants.
"We discovered features of the fruits and seeds, not previously detailed, that were more similar to those of the tulip tree line of evolution than to the magnolias," Dilcher said. "Thus the beautiful tulip tree has a lineage that extends back to the age of the dinosaurs. It has a long, independent history separate from the magnolias and should be recognized as its own flowering plant family."
While the paper provides new insight into the evolution of the tulip tree line, questions remain, Dilcher said. Scientists don't know how widespread and various the early members of the tulip tree line may have been, for example. Fossils similar to Archaeanthus have been found in the Southeastern United States. Were there other similar plants, and where did they develop?
Further, the fact that the tulip tree family has survived and evolved for more than 100 million years -- albeit in limited and widely divergent ranges -- is relevant to understanding how species have developed in the past and how they might fare in the future given changing climate and other factors.
Steve Hinnefeld | EurekAlert!
More than just a mechanical barrier – epithelial cells actively combat the flu virus
04.05.2016 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Discovery of a fundamental limit to the evolution of the genetic code
03.05.2016 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Using an ultra fast-scanning atomic force microscope, a team of researchers from the University of Basel has filmed “living” nuclear pore complexes at work for the first time. Nuclear pores are molecular machines that control the traffic entering or exiting the cell nucleus. In their article published in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers explain how the passage of unwanted molecules is prevented by rapidly moving molecular “tentacles” inside the pore.
Using high-speed AFM, Roderick Lim, Argovia Professor at the Biozentrum and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute of the University of Basel, has not only directly...
If a person pushes a broken-down car alone, there is a certain effect. If another person helps, the result is the sum of their efforts. If two micro-particles are pushing another microparticle, however, the resulting effect may not necessarily be the sum their efforts. A recent study published in Nature Communications, measured this odd effect that scientists call “many body.”
In the microscopic world, where the modern miniaturized machines at the new frontiers of technology operate, as long as we are in the presence of two...
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.
Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...
Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.
In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...
Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid
Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...
27.04.2016 | Event News
15.04.2016 | Event News
12.04.2016 | Event News
04.05.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
04.05.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
04.05.2016 | Materials Sciences