Saturday, 11 January 2014

Oldest evidence for flowering plants

A 100-million-year-old piece of amber from mines in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar (formerly Burma) has revealed the oldest known evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant. The amber contains 18 tiny flowers of a previously unknown Cretaceous plant genus and species, named Micropetasos burmensis.  The perfectly-preserved scene is part of a portrait created when flowering plants were changing the face of the Earth forever, adding beauty, biodiversity and food. It appears identical to the reproduction process that flowering plants (angiosperms) still use today. The flower cluster is one of the most complete ever found in amber and appeared at a time when many of the flowering plants were still quite small. Even more remarkable is the microscopic image of pollen tubes growing out of two grains of pollen and penetrating the flower’s stigma, the receptive part of the female reproductive system. This sets the stage for fertilization of the egg and would begin the process of seed formation – had the reproductive act been completed.
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