Ancient Roots: Flowers May Have Existed When First Dinosaur Was Born
Dec 02, · Insects doubtless began visiting and pollinating angiosperms as soon as the new plants appeared on Earth some million years ago. But it would . Flowering Plants: Flowering plants are not only very beautiful, they are also a hugely successful biological evolution. They were able to over take gymnosperms as the dominant plant species around.
Asked by Wiki User. Flowering plants first appeared in the Cretaceous Period, which is in the Mesozoic Era. The first flowering plants appeared in the Mesozoic era, but I don't know what period.
Flowering plants arrived in the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic Era. The first flowering plant appeared million years ago from now. Talk about Old Flowers. In the Mesozoic era. Mesozoic :. The flowery one. In the Mesozoic Era, during the cretaceous period. There were no plants in the Precambrian era. Plants did not appear until the Ordivician period of the Paleozoic era. Cretaceous late Mesozoic era.
There were actually three types of plants that evolved in the Mesozoic. Cycads and ginkgos evolved around the late Triassic and early Jurassic. The firsts flowering plants appear in the fossil record during the early Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era.
Angiosperms flowering plants become the dominant plant during the Mesozoic Era. Mammals first appear in the fossil record of the Mesozoic Era.
Flowering plants. A period to 65 million years ago, characterized by the growth of the first flowering plants and the height of the era of the dinosaurs. The Palaeozoic Era. They evolved in the Mesozoic Era. Land plants first appeared in the Silurian period. This period took place during the Paleozoic Era. This was million years ago. Ask Question. Earth Sciences. See Answer. Top Answer. Wiki User Answered First flowering plants appeared in the Mesozoic era.
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The most recent era is the Cenozoic, which itself belongs to the Phanerozoic eon. The Cenozoic began about million years ago and continues in the present day. Flowering plants first appeared in the Cretaceous Period, which is in the Mesozoic Era. There were actually three types of plants that evolved in the Mesozoic. Cycads and ginkgos evolved around the late Triassic and early Jurassic. The firsts flowering plants appear in the fossil.
In the summer of sunflowers appeared in my father's vegetable garden. They seemed to sprout overnight in a few rows he had lent that year to new neighbors from California. Only six years old at the time, I was at first put off by these garish plants.
Such strange and vibrant flowers seemed out of place among the respectable beans, peppers, spinach, and other vegetables we had always grown. Gradually, however, the brilliance of the sunflowers won me over. Their fiery halos relieved the green monotone that by late summer ruled the garden. I marveled at birds that clung upside down to the shaggy, gold disks, wings fluttering, looting the seeds. Sunflowers defined flowers for me that summer and changed my view of the world.
Flowers have a way of doing that. They began changing the way the world looked almost as soon as they appeared on Earth about million years ago, during the Cretaceous period. That's relatively recent in geologic time: If all Earth's history were compressed into an hour, flowering plants would exist for only the last 90 seconds. But once they took firm root about million years ago, they swiftly diversified in an explosion of varieties that established most of the flowering plant families of the modern world.
Today flowering plant species outnumber by twenty to one those of ferns and cone-bearing trees, or conifers, which had thrived for million years before the first bloom appeared. As a food source flowering plants provide us and the rest of the animal world with the nourishment that is fundamental to our existence. In the words of Walter Judd, a botanist at the University of Florida, "If it weren't for flowering plants, we humans wouldn't be here.
From oaks and palms to wildflowers and water lilies, across the miles of cornfields and citrus orchards to my father's garden, flowering plants have come to rule the worlds of botany and agriculture. They also reign over an ethereal realm sought by artists, poets, and everyday people in search of inspiration, solace, or the simple pleasure of beholding a blossom. After flowering plants, the world became like an English garden, full of bright color and variety, visited by butterflies and honeybees.
Flowers of all shapes and colors bloomed among the greenery. That dramatic change represents one of the great moments in the history of life on the planet. What allowed flowering plants to dominate the world's flora so quickly? What was their great innovation? Botanists call flowering plants angiosperms, from the Greek words for "vessel" and "seed.
Each fruit contains one or more carpels, hollow chambers that protect and nourish the seeds. Slice a tomato in half, for instance, and you'll find carpels.
These structures are the defining trait of all angiosperms and one key to the success of this huge plant group, which numbers some , species. Just when and how did the first flowering plants emerge?
Charles Darwin pondered that question, and paleobotanists are still searching for an answer. Throughout the s discoveries of fossilized flowers in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America offered important clues. At the same time the field of genetics brought a whole new set of tools to the search. As a result, modern paleobotany has undergone a boom not unlike the Cretaceous flower explosion itself.
Now old-style fossil hunters with shovels and microscopes compare notes with molecular biologists using genetic sequencing to trace modern plant families backward to their origins. These two groups of researchers don't always arrive at the same birthplace, but both camps agree on why the quest is important.
What sorts of pollinators are effective? Elizabeth Zimmer, a molecular biologist with the Smithsonian Institution, has been rethinking that process in recent years. Zimmer has been working to decipher the genealogy of flowering plants by studying the DNA of today's species. Her work accelerated in the late s during a federally funded study called Deep Green, developed to foster coordination among scientists studying plant evolution.
Zimmer and her colleagues began looking in their shared data for groups of plants with common inherited traits, hoping eventually to identify a common ancestor to all flowering plants. Results to date indicate that the oldest living lineage, reaching back at least million years, is Amborellaceae, a family that includes just one known species, Amborella trichopoda.
Often described as a "living fossil," this small woody plant grows only on New Caledonia, a South Pacific island famous among botanists for its primeval flora. But we don't have an Amborella from million years ago, so we can only wonder if it looked the same as today's variety.
We do have fossils of other extinct flowering plants, the oldest buried in million-year-old sediments. These fossils give us our only tangible hints of what early flowers looked like, suggesting they were tiny and unadorned, lacking showy petals. These no-frill flowers challenge most notions of what makes a flower a flower. To see what the first primitive angiosperm might have looked like, I flew to England and there met paleobotanist Chris Hill, formerly with London's Natural History Museum.
Hill drove me through rolling countryside to Smokejacks Brickworks, a quarry south of London. Smokejacks is a hundred-foot-deep meter-deep hole in the ground, as wide as several football fields, that has been offering up a lot more than raw material for bricks. Its rust-colored clays have preserved thousands of fossils from about million years ago.
We marched to the bottom of the quarry, got down on our hands and knees, and began digging. Soon Hill lifted a chunk of mudstone. He presented it to me and pointed to an imprint of a tiny stem that terminated in a rudimentary flower. The fossil resembled a single sprout plucked from a head of broccoli. The world's first flower? More like a prototype of a flower, said Hill, who made his initial fossil find here in the early s.
He officially named it Bevhalstia pebja, words cobbled from the names of his closest colleagues. Through my magnifying glass the Bevhalstia fossil appeared small and straggly, an unremarkable weed I might see growing in the water near the edge of a pond, which is where Hill believes it grew.
So we start by comparing it to what we know. Bevhalstia also bears a striking resemblance to a fossil reported in by American paleobotanists Leo Hickey and Dave Taylor. That specimen, a diminutive million-year-old plant from Australia, grew leaves that are neither fernlike nor needlelike.
Instead they are inlaid with veins like the leaves of modern flowering plants. More important, Hickey and Taylor's specimen contains fossilized fruits that once enclosed seeds, something Hill hopes to find associated with Bevhalstia.
Both plants lack defined flower petals. Both are more primitive than the magnolia, recently dethroned as the earliest flower, although still considered an ancient lineage. And both, along with a recent find from China known as Archaefructus, have buttressed the idea that the very first flowering plants were simple and inconspicuous. Like all pioneers, early angiosperms got their start on the margins.
In a world dominated by conifers and ferns, these botanical newcomers managed to get a toehold in areas of ecological disturbance, such as floodplains and volcanic regions, and adapted quickly to new environments. Fossil evidence leads some botanists to believe that the first flowering plants were herbaceous, meaning they grew no woody parts.
The latest genetic research, however, indicates that most ancient angiosperm lines included both herbaceous and woody plants. Unlike trees, which require years to mature and bear seed, herbaceous angiosperms live, reproduce, and die in short life cycles. This enables them to seed new ground quickly and perhaps allowed them to evolve faster than their competitors, advantages that may have helped give rise to their diversity.
While this so-called herbaceous habit might have given them an edge over slow-growing woody plants, the angiosperms' trump card was the flower. In simple terms, a flower is the reproductive mechanism of an angiosperm. Most flowers have both male and female parts.
Reproduction begins when a flower releases pollen, microscopic packets of genetic material, into the air. Eventually these grains come to rest on another flower's stigma, a tiny pollen receptor. In most cases the stigma sits atop a stalk-like structure called a style that protrudes from the center of a flower. Softened by moisture, the pollen grain releases proteins that chemically discern whether the new plant is genetically compatible. If so, the pollen grain germinates and grows a tube down through the style and ovary and into the ovule, where fertilization occurs and a seed begins to grow.
Casting pollen to the wind is a hit-or-miss method of reproduction. Although wind pollination suffices for many plant species, direct delivery by insects is far more efficient. Insects doubtless began visiting and pollinating angiosperms as soon as the new plants appeared on Earth some million years ago. But it would be another 30 or 40 million years before flowering plants grabbed the attention of insect pollinators by flaunting flashy petals. A thoughtful woman with short brown hair and intense eyes, Friis oversees what many experts say is the most complete collection of angiosperm fossils gathered in one place.
The fragile flowers escaped destruction, oddly enough, thanks to the intense heat of long-ago forest fires that baked them into charcoal. Friis showed me an million-year-old fossil flower no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. Coated with pure gold for maximum resolution under an electron microscope, it seemed to me hardly a flower. So we squinted through her powerful magnifier and took a figurative walk through a Cretaceous world of tiny and diverse angiosperms.
Enlarged hundreds or thousands of times, Friis's fossilized flowers resemble wrinkled onion bulbs or radishes. Many have kept their tiny petals clamped shut, hiding the carpels within. Others reach wide open in full maturity. Dense bunches of pollen grains cling to each other in gnarled clumps. Sometime between 70 and million years ago the number of flowering plant species on Earth exploded, an event botanists refer to as the "great radiation. This is now a widely accepted notion," Friis said.
In their new finery, once overlooked angiosperms became standouts in the landscape, luring insect pollinators as never before. Reproduction literally took off. Interaction between insects and flowering plants shaped the development of both groups, a process called coevolution.
In time flowers evolved arresting colors, alluring fragrances, and special petals that provide landing pads for their insect pollinators. Uppermost in the benefits package for insects is nectar, a nutritious fluid flowers provide as a type of trading commodity in exchange for pollen dispersal. The ancestors of bees, butterflies, and wasps grew dependent on nectar, and in so doing became agents of pollen transport, inadvertently carrying off grains hitched to tiny hairs on their bodies.