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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs