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Oldest Flower Fossil Found, 125 MYA

from China (I'm not surprised)


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The ancestor of all the grains, fruits and blossoms of
the modern world may have been a fragile water plant that lived in a
Chinese lake 125 million years ago. 

The plant, called Archaefructus sinensis for "ancient fruit from China,"
is of a species never before seen and carries the clear characteristics of
the most primitive of flowering plants, said David Dilcher of the Florida
Museum of Natural History and the University of Florida. 
Botanists had long considered a woody plant from New Caledonia as the most
ancient of flowering plants. Dilcher said the new discovery precedes that
magnolia-like species. 

The discovery also suggests that flowering plants got their start as herbs
growing in shallow pools and were able to reproduce quickly, a distinct
advantage for survival, said Dilcher. 

Archaefructus "was not a flashy flower," he said. The plant's flowering
part had no real petals, but acted only as a reproductive unit. 

"The reason we can say it is a flowering plant is that the seed is
enclosed inside of carpels of the fruit," said Dilcher. "That is primary
key." A carpel is the female part of a flower. 
Dilcher said that Archaefructus apparently lived in clear, shallow pools,
with its flowers and seeds extending above the water surface. Its leaves
probably were submerged, he said, and the limbs were partially supported
by the water. The plant rooted in the floor of the lake. 

The best evidence of its waterlogged lifestyle is that fossils of nine
fish were found among the branches of the plant in the slab of stone dug
from the ancient lake, he said.