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Ancient flower fossil points to underwater origins

e surface with its pollen and seed organs extending above the water, Dilcher said.

The seeds probably dispersed in the water and floated up along the shore and germinated in shallow water, he said.

"The mysteries of the origin and radiation of the flowering plants remain among the greatest dilemmas facing paleontology and evolutionary biology," said William Crepet, plant biologist at Cornell University. "This fossil represents the first evidence of an angiosperm that is basal to all other angiosperms, yet that does not fit within any modern taxonomic group of angiosperms this makes it one of, if not the most important fossil flowering plant ever reported."

The fossil was found in China by local farmers who gave it to one of the paper's coauthors. It is much more complete than one found at a nearby site four years ago, which Dilcher also studied, and suggests origins in water that refreshed the dinosaurs, said Dilcher.

"After having only a fragment and trying to imagine what the whole plant was like, it was a great surprise to find leaves typical of a plant that lived underwater with characteristics very unique to flowering plants at such an early age in their history," he said. -NSF-
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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
2-May-2002


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