Prehistoric Flowers: Fun Flower Info Delivered Straight to You From Avas Flowers
Prehistoric Flowers: Flower Fun Info Delivered Straight to You From Avas Flowers
Believe it or not, the species of flowers you see around you every day have not always been here! In fact, the world's flora and fauna looked incredibly different millions of years ago. Before the cretaceous era, it was suggested that there were hundreds of species of trees and fern-like plants. Still, flowers were not generally considered to be well represented during that era.
Seed plants (spermatophytes) formed while dinosaurs were still walking the Earth, about 150 million years ago and became the dominant form of vegetation on the planet. One of those plants was called the Maidenhair tree, which still exists today and is one of the only surviving flora from that era. Scientists know this thanks to the leaf imprints found in fossils that resemble present-day versions of this tree. The Maidenhair tree got its name due to the individual leaflets of maidenhair fern that it sports.
During this time, even Antarctica had several species of lush plants and even flowering species. Scientists suggest that while there were lush trees, it had cool and wet weather which helped certain plants, like Glossopteris, thrive. However, Scientists have yet to find large parts of this plant intact, so they can only guess what it looks like. The current guess is that it is either a large shrub or small deciduous tree that dropped leaves in the fall and sprouted new ones in the spring.
It is suggested that in the eras before the cretaceous period, there were over 600 known species of evergreen trees, gymnosperms, cy-cads, gnetophytes, and Ginkgo plants because they were heartier and tougher, which was necessary for their survival at the time. They had thick bark, branches, woody pulp, and leaves that were similar to needles or fronds, which make them much more difficult to chew. Dinosaurs at that time did not have digestive systems capable of getting nutrients from those plants, so if they did eat them, they would aim to swallow them whole and let a process in their stomach extract nourishment through fermentation.
Gymnosperms were especially successful when it came to surviving in the warm and arid climate of the Jurassic era because they only relied on wind to carry pollen to their seeds and those seeds grew very tall very slowly. This slow growth coupled with the tall trees they turned into discouraged herbivores from consuming them for the most part, except for species like the Sauropod, which adapted by growing taller to reach the tall leaves.
Asterids, Earth's most important and diverse plants, are often found among fossilized flowering plants including a species called Strychnos electri. This species is currently extinct, but many plants today evolved from this flower and similar ones from tropical forests in the late cretaceous period 142 to 65 million years ago. This is around the time in evolutionary history that most flowering plants evolved, likely thanks to insects like bees that emerged around that time period as well. However, not everybody agrees with this theory and some Scientists point to previous genetic analysis studies that suggest flowering plants are more ancient than anybody realizes.
At the moment, the oldest known flower, called Montsechia vidalii, can't be directly compared with the flowers you know today since they've evolved so much, but Scientists believed the first flower looked somewhat similar to a water lily. This is due to both flowers' circles of broad petals with a center that has protruding pollen spikes. Currently, the understanding of when flowering plants sprouted is based on previously available fossils with primitive examples of flowering buds.
Fossils are an essential part of research on prehistoric flowers, but because of their delicate structure, it is tough for flowers to fossilize correctly. It takes diligence and luck to find a fossil of a flower, especially since digging out something that appears to have a bloom is not enough to count as a fossil. Scientists will only count it as a fossilized flower if the plants' ovules (cells in the plant that eventually become seeds) are completely enclosed inside the ovary. Oftentimes, the most likely way they can be found is when a tree's sticky resin captures these specimens and manages to keep them away from damage for thousands of years.
With new discoveries coming all the time, Scientists will likely find new plant and flower fossils in locations around the world that will bring about new discoveries about plants that may have been unheard of before. One thing is for sure and it's that evolution has treated our world with hundreds of thousands of new species of plants that all evolved from the plants that existed in the world millions of years ago. The plant life may have looked very different back then, but all the plants that existed then are the roots of the plants we have now!
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