News / Science & Technology

    Flowers' First Bloom Captured in Fossil Record

    FILE - Paleo-botanist Peter Hochuli studies push the origin of flowering plants back 100 million years to the early Triassic period 240 million years ago. (A. Ritter/UZH)
    FILE - Paleo-botanist Peter Hochuli studies push the origin of flowering plants back 100 million years to the early Triassic period 240 million years ago. (A. Ritter/UZH)
    Rosanne Skirble
    A scientist has been searching for the origin of flowering plants, which evolved to dominate our landscape and define life as we know it. He reports his findings in a new study that pushes back the date of the earliest flower by 100 million years, to a period when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    Twenty-five years ago, geologist Peter Hochuli was on an expedition in Norway when he made a discovery in a sediment core - a long round sample of soil or rock - that puzzled him.  

    “And there I found first these amazing pollen grains which looked to me like the ones that I knew from the Cretaceous,” he said.

    That is the relatively warm geological period 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs dominated the landscape, and scientists believe new groups of mammals and birds, as well as flowering plants, appeared. The problem was that he had dated the core to the Triassic, or 100 million years earlier in earth’s history.
    The microscopic features of this ancient pollen grain are similar to those of flowering plants. (Credit: Hochuli/Feist-Burkhardt)The microscopic features of this ancient pollen grain are similar to those of flowering plants. (Credit: Hochuli/Feist-Burkhardt)
    x
    The microscopic features of this ancient pollen grain are similar to those of flowering plants. (Credit: Hochuli/Feist-Burkhardt)
    The microscopic features of this ancient pollen grain are similar to those of flowering plants. (Credit: Hochuli/Feist-Burkhardt)


    “But for many of my colleagues, it didn’t fit the picture that these pollen are occurring in the middle Triassic. So I thought they were contaminants, and I suspected that they came from the lab. In the lab they also prepared Cretaceous sediments. So I also thought they made kind of a mess,” said Hochuli.

    But he does not think so anymore. Now a paleo-botanist at the University of Zurich, Hochuli has focused his research on finding the origin of flowering plants, which evolved from extinct plants related to today’s conifers, seed ferns and pollen.

    Hochuli works with organic fossils, those leaves, woody particles, spores and pollen extracted from sediment cores. His new study in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science describes pollen extracted from sediment cores in Switzerland. Interestingly, the date is consistent with his earlier suspicions more than two decades ago.

    “I think that it is the direct line in the evolution of flowering plants. We are sure that the assemblages of the pollen and spores we found, they are about 240 million years old,” said said Hochuli.

    LISTEN: Flowers' First Bloom
    Flowers' First Bloomi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    The finding extends the uninterrupted sequence of fossilized pollen from flowers by 100 million years. Hochuli said his previous study in 2004 documented different, but clearly related, flowering plant-like pollen from the Barents Sea, some 3,000 kilometers away.  

    “And I think they are more widespread and more common than we originally thought. Originally we thought that this Barents Sea area would be kind of the cradle of the flowering plant evolution, but that is certainly not the case,” said Hochuli.

    Charles Darwin described the origin of plants as an “abominable mystery,” because they appeared to spread across the earth in such a relatively short time. While Hochuli’s work pushes the date back, he said gaps remain and the record is spotty.

    “I’m searching for the roots. I’m searching for a group of plants, which are at the base of the flowering plants,” he said.

    Hochuli said more fossil evidence is needed to confirm his findings, a task he committed his life to find.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora