Monday, January 6, 2014

Angiosperm in amber

As usual, when I find a story about something fossilized in amber, I look no further… This time it's an angiosperm (flowering plant) discovered in the amber mines of Burma's Hukawng Valley. German and American scientists claim the newly-described flower (Micropetasos burmensis) is one of the most complete ever found in amber and the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant. In the Cretaceous Period, 100 million years ago, flowers were still quite tiny, but were beginning to change the face of the earth, adding beauty, biodiversity, and food. The specimen (IMAGE ABOVE) includes a cluster of 18 tiny flowers, but - remarkably - captures the moment when 2 grains of pollen were penetrating the receptive part of the female reproductive system, which would lead to seed formation, had the act been completed. Professor emeritus George Poinar, Jr., of Oregon State University's Department of Integrative Biology explains, In Cretaceous flowers we’ve never before seen a fossil that shows the pollen tube actually entering the stigma. This is the beauty of amber fossils. They are preserved so rapidly after entering the resin that structures such as pollen grains and tubes can be detected with a microscope.”

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