Oldest flower fossils in the world may solve Darwin’s hateful mystery

left inset: flower bud; The fruit body is shown in the upper right, while the bud is visible in the lower right. Credit: Wang Xin.

Paleontologists in China claim that they may have found the oldest fossils of a flower bud so far. The findings suggest that flowering plants, or angiosperms, appeared tens of millions of years earlier than the fossil record suggested earlier and help solve one of the vexing problems that have plagued Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which he called a “distasteful enigma.”

Flowering plants produce flowers and bear their seeds in the fruit, unlike their gymnosperm peers which have unenclosed seeds and lack a flower. Examples include monocots angiosperms such as lilies, orchids, agaves, and herbs, as well as lilies such as roses, peas, sunflowers, oaks, and maples. Examples of gymnosperms include non-flowering evergreen plants such as pines, spruces, and spruces.

The gymnosperms represent some of the oldest plant life in geological history. But as soon as the angiosperms appeared, they began relatively quickly to replace their older peers within a few tens of millions of years. To this day, angiosperms are the dominant form of plant life on Earth.

How did angiosperms spread so quickly? Why and when did they appear in the first place? How could they really be so incredibly diverse by the time they were spotted in the oldest fossil records?

When Charles Darwin pondered these questions in the late nineteenth century, he could not come up with a satisfactory answer. The fact that flowering plants conquered the world so quickly while all other species seem to have gradually evolved was a major thorn in the side of the British naturalist, who declared that Nature does not jump Or nature does not jump. But then came the angiosperms that didn’t seem to get the memo.

In 1879 Darwin sent a letter to fellow botanist and explorer Dr. Joseph Hooker, writing: “The rapid evolution in so far as we can judge all higher plants in modern geological times is an abhorrent enigma.”

This conundrum to biology was what Fermat’s last theory of mathematics was.

The mystery can be explained by the fact that angiosperms evolved much earlier than Darwin or his followers believed, according to a new study. Professor Wang Xin of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) and colleagues described the oldest fossil flower bud to date, which was found in a primitive state in Inner Mongolia, China.

Old flower bud, christened Florigerminis JurassicaIt dates back more than 164 million years. It is undoubtedly an angiosperm, judging by the presence of flower bud, connected fruit, and leafy twig.

Previously, scientists had identified very old flower fossils dating back 145 million years, in the case of ioanthus, or even 174 million years for Nanjinganthus, which is also found in China. But although these fossils appear to include seeds completely surrounded by an ovary, many experts are not convinced that they were true angiosperms.

However, Florigerminis Jurassica It has a flower bud, fruit and leafy twig – an unmistakable trio that reinforces the stature of the ancient fossils as the undeniable angiosperms.

Flowers are notorious for being difficult to petrify, which partly explains Darwin’s mystery. The wonderful rare find of Florigerminis Jurassica It shows that flowering plants have been on their way to dominating the planet since the Jurassic, requiring a rethink of the evolution timeline for angiosperms.

The results appeared in the journal Geological Society, London, Special Publications.

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