Monday, December 9, 2013

From fern to flower

Another remarkable discovery, not in the field but in a museum. As a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, Nathan Jud was examining ancient plant fossils at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. What he thought was a fern turned out to be a series of leaves attached to each other by veins. He realized from its structure that it had reproduced sexually with seeds rather than asexually with spores, as was typical at that time. After dating the plant to the Early Cretaceous through analysis of the chemical makeup of pollen in the surrounding rock and other fossils trapped in the same layer, researchers realized that – at between 115 and 125 million years old – it may have been the earliest flowering plant in North America. The fossil had been excavated in 1971 from beds in Virginia that had originally been exposed by freed slaves employed by Union troops in 1864 to dig a canal. Jud honored that history when giving a name to the species and explains: Potomac refers to the Potomac Group beds where the fossil was found, capnos is a reference to living poppies that are quite similar to the fossil and apeleutheron is the Greek word for freedmen. So the new plant will be named Potomacapnos apeleutheron: roughly, ‘freedmen’s poppy of the Potomac.’”

1 comment:

  1. wow.!! that's a great discovery.. didn't know that thing even existed.!

    Thanks for sharing .. :)


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