Flower Power may have come to the Earth 100 million years earlier than our textbooks say they did, and way, way before the 1960s. The origins of flowering plants have their roots at least that far back, far older than previous estimates have claimed that they did. If scientists in Germany and Switzerland are correct, there will be a lot of textbooks that will literally have to be rewritten.
The Early Cretaceous period is the time period currently in textbooks as the age when the first flowering plant which had pollen originated, but it’s now been beaten, according to research published in Frontiers in Plant Science.
The new time period that has taken the crown is the older Middle Triassic. The research team discovered six different fossil pollen grains from this period.
Angiospermss are another term for flowering plants. There are more angiospheres on Earth than any other sort of seed-producing plants.
While all plants that produce seeds bear pollen, not all of these plants also flower.
The pollen grains are covered by “a very tough and resistant wall of organic matter to protect them,” according to University of Zurich Professor Professor Peter Hochuli.
In the fossil record we find only this protective wall of the pollen grains.”
The Early Cretaceous period (140 million years ago give or take) was marked by an abundance of flowering plants of great diversity. That’s a main reason why scientists theorized that flowering plants originated during the Cretaceous period.
However, after Professor Hochuli and his team examined the older Triassic samples more closely, using confocal laser scanning microscopy, they identified the six distinct types of fossilized flowering plant-like pollen mentioned earlier in this article. They categorized the six samples based on structure, patterning, and size.
Professor Hochuli stated that (except for a few differences) “the pollen from the Middle Triassic look exactly the same as the angiosperm pollen from the Early Cretaceous.”
There have also been reports that similar pollen has been found in sediment from the Triassic period. These discoveries are preliminary evidence that the origins of flowering plants happened over 100 million years before scientists had thought they originated.
The professor also remarked that the Middle Triassic period had “a rather high diversity” of flowering plants. He went on to say that they might even come from “the Early Triassic or the Late Palaeozoic era.”
One problem, though, with this earlier date is that it seems to leave a gap of 100 million years. No other examples have so far been discovered of such angiospermss in this interim period.
Professor Hochuli added that the “pollen assemblages” are an indication that “the Middle Triassic the climate was warm/hot and arid in Central Europe/Switzerland and still warm, but more humid in the Barents Sea area.”
He’s not going to stop there. According to the professor, his team’s “next step” is to find further evidence from other places and in older sediments of angiospheres that bear pollen. The clock for flowering plants and Flower Power has already been turned back over 100 million years; how much further back might the origins of flowering plants go?
Written by: Douglas Cobb