An ancient ritual was found in an amber fossil. Discovered in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, a country bordered by Thailand and China, the fossil shows that the plant matter inside was in the process of sexual reproduction. The fossil was studied by researchers at Oregon State University. The team of researchers was headed up by George Poinar, Jr. The scientists at OSU also collaborated with German scientists. One of the flowers was making new seeds when the amber covered the plant with its resin.
Scientists have dated the fossil as old as 100 million years and have identified the plant as a new species and genus. Researchers have named it micropetasos burmensis. The research was published in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas.
Microscopic examination of the plant by OSU researchers showed tubes of pollen, which created two grains of pollen that penetrated the flower’s stigma, the part of the female reproductive system that takes the pollen. The stamen are the male reproductive organs of the flower, the pistil is the female reproductive parts and the stigma takes the pollen from the male flower. The fossil is the first to show this phenomenon of plant reproduction.
“This is the beauty of amber fossils,” explained Poinar, as he talked about the amber resin that sticks to structures such as pollen grains and tubes, which can then be easily detected with a microscope.
The plant is from the Cretaceous Period, a time in which dinosaurs roamed the earth. It has been established that during the middle of this period, the usual conifers, ferns and mosses were joined by flowering plants. This change caused an amazing variety of plant life, which broadened the diversity of life on earth, mostly seen in tropical climes.
The fossil (pictured below) shows the ancient ritual of reproduction kept in a small time capsule of amber. It contains 18 separate plants, with ten that were able to be studied. The pollen would have been sticky, according to scientists, and insects would spread the pollen to other plants like the micropetasos burmensis.
The above photograph is representative of the amber fossil studied by Poinar. The flowers were captured in excellent condition, allowing researchers to get a lot of information from examining it through a microscope.
This plant species found preserved in amber is now completely extinct and is the most complete specimen of any flowering plant from the Cretaceous Era. The knowledge that scientists have gathered from the amber fossil located in Myanmar is a truly precious find in the annals of scientific research.
The specimen seeds inside the amber cannot be used for DNA research, due to the fact that its half-life is 500 years, and the specimen’s age would mean that planting the seeds inside would be impossible.
The research shows that the science community’s concern about the decrease in the bee population is warranted, since bee pollination is an efficient way to make sure the plant species flourish into the future eras. An ancient ritual has been found in a lump of amber fossil, the beauty of nature at its best.
By Lisa M Pickering