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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid