On the News@ NSF
Paleontologists find fossil relative of Ginkgo biloba
“A discovery of well-preserved fossil plants by paleontologists from the United States, China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia has allowed researchers to identify a distant relative of the living plant Ginkgo biloba.
The find helps scientists better understand the evolution and diversity of ancient seed plants.
The fossils, from the species Umaltolepis mongoliensis, date back to the early Cretaceous Period (some 100-125 million years ago). Scientists discovered the fossils in ancient peat deposits at the Tevshiin Govi mine in the steppes of central Mongolia. Results of the research, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are published in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“The stems and leaves are similar to the ginkgo tree, but the seeds, and especially the structures they are born in, are unlike any other known plant, living or extinct,” says scientist Patrick Herendeen of the Chicago Botanic Garden, co-author of the PNAS paper. “Finding something like this does not happen very often.”
Scientists had previously uncovered fossils of U. mongoliensis, but those were in poor condition, making them difficult to study. Hundreds of better-preserved new fossils show that features of the stems and leaves are similar to those of living ginkgo.
However, the seed-bearing structures are not like those of today’s ginkgo tree, Herendeen says. Ginkgo has large seeds with a fleshy outer covering, but U. mongoliensis has small, winged seeds.” (…) READ MORE
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