Discovered Fossil in California make scientists question the evolution of Cycad plants

This discovery is set to shake up everything known about Cycad plants
Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji Bello
Cycad plant

Two University of Kansas paleobotanists have discovered a well-preserved 80-million-year pollen cone in California, and the discovery is set to change how scientists view cycad plants. Before now, Cycads – which are a group of gymnosperms that have a striking resemblance to miniature palm trees – were believed to be “living fossils.”

The findings of this discovery were published in the journal New Phytologist. In the journal, the lead author, Andre's Elgorriaga, emphasized that  Cycads aren't so famous, however, they constitute a significant part of plant diversity, making up to 25% of all gymnosperms. They are seed-producing plants with thick stems and short stature, and they produce cones like pine cones.

Are Cycads Living Fossils?

Cycads had been noted as an important plant, but there had been confusion about its lack of fossil evidence. Some researchers had asserted that cycads today are identical to their ancestors. 

Brian Atkinson, a co-author and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, revealed that cycads didn't change much over the years. He pointed out that the Fossil record of cycads had come with much misunderstanding and many things that have been called cycads had turned out not to be the plant at all.

According to him, some species of plant had been proposed as cycads because they had their internal anatomy and pollen grains typical as that of cycads. On the other hand, the external morphology is completely different from living cycads, and so cycads cannot be classified as living Fossils.

To the KU researchers, their analysis of the 80-million-year-old permineralized pollen cone located in Silverado Canyon, California, gave an accurate cycad evolutionary history. Elgorriaga, one of the KU researchers, pointed out that their discovery made them realize that there were cycads that are different from today's own in size and number of pollen sacs. 

These researchers analyzed the specimen's cone architecture, anatomical details, and vascular organization using some scientific methods. They also performed a series of evolutionary analyses to place the Fossil within the cycad family tree.

After the research, the investigator said that their description of primordial plants indicates how paleobotany can tell us how nature works through time. Atkinson, on the other hand, pointed out that information gained from Fossil records greatly impacts their understanding of evolutionary patterns. And time, just like Fossils can reveal insights that aren't apparent from studying only living plants or organisms.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board