New Work Raises Questions about Origins of Early Evolution of Flowering Plants

Indiana University (IU) paleobotanist Dr. 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 online on August 17, 2015 in PNAS, represents a major change in the presumed form of one of the planet's earliest flowers, known as angiosperms. The article is titled “Montsechia, an ancient aquatic angiosperm.” "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 Dr. Dilcher, an Emeritus Professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Geological Sciences. The aquatic plant, Montsechia vidalii, once grew abundantly in freshwater lakes in what are now mountainous regions in Spain. Fossils of the plant were first discovered more than 100 years ago in the limestone deposits of the Iberian Range in central Spain and in the Montsec Range of the Pyrenees, near the Spain's border with France. Also previously proposed as one of the earliest flowers is Archaefructus sinensis, an aquatic plant found in China. "A 'first flower' is technically a myth, like the 'first human,'" said Dr. Dilcher, an internationally recognized expert on angiosperm anatomy and morphology, who has studied the rise and spread of flowering plants for decades. "But based on this new analysis, we know now that Montsechia is contemporaneous, if not more ancient, than Archaefructus." He also asserted that the fossils used in the study were "poorly understood and even misinterpreted" during previous analyses. "The reinterpretation of these fossils provides a fascinating new perspective on a major mystery in plant biology," said Dr. Donald H.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story