Plant life is almost everywhere spread across our planet, but its evolution remains a mystery, even if it has been recently discovered that the oldest flower may be 130 million years old. The underwater, ancient plant was preserved within a fossil that was discovered around 100 years ago in Spain, but only now, scientists have gained a proper understanding of its origins.
Monsechia vidalii is considered to be the oldest plant that bore the resemblance of “flower”, or angiosperm, due to the fact that it produced seeds within an enclosed carpel. It appears to have been a dark green, freshwater, leafy plant that bloomed underwater and would have been munched on by brachiosaurs and iguanodons between 125 and 130 million years ago.
In modern times, it has been reported that the plant resembled and is a distant ancestor to today’s Ceratophyllum, otherwise known as “coontail” or “hornworth”, commonly found in ponds and marshes in tropical or temperate areas, or decorating the average aquarium.
The discovery took a century to properly uncover and extensive analysis of over 1,000 fossils, but it has now given scientists a better insight in the evolutionary path of plant life and altered their view on how prehistoric flowers might’ve looked like. It paints a better picture of a world we can only imagine.
By analyzing the fossilized samples, researchers carefully poured hydrochloric acid and, drop by drop, were able to reveal the stem and leaf structure of the ancient plant. They were then scrutinized under stereomicroscope, light microscope, and scanning electron microscope to ascertain the most slightest of details they could garner.
According to Donald H. Les, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, the proper investigation and reinterpretation after 100 years worth of research offers an entirely new perspective on solving an ancient mystery surrounding plant life.
Botanist, David Dilcher, from Indiana University further adds to the professor’s statement by claiming that these new findings raise numerous questions about the evolutionary history of flowering plants, as well as their role concerning animal life millions of years ago. It holds a major role in the history of a now large-scaled ecosystem, yet its evolving pattern remains a mystery.
One can never accurately tell, however, which was the first plant or flower that ever existed as time could have eroded all traces and eliminated all clues we might have caught in different conditions.
However, Monsechia vidalii has been said that it surpasses Archaefructus sinensis in age, previously known as the older flower on Earth, discovered in China. Or, at the very least, they would have been contemporaries in a distant time where extinct species roamed the spaces now covered by modern structures.
Image source: enidrio.gr