Page 96

INCLUSIONS

AMBER FOSSIL reveals

ancient reproduction in flowering plants Press Release by OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Even more remarkable is the microscopic image of pollen tubes growing out of two grains of pollen and penetrating the flow-

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A 100-million-year

er’s stigma, the receptive part of the female

old piece of amber has been discovered

reproductive system. This sets the stage for

which reveals the oldest evidence of sexual

fertilization of the egg and would begin the

reproduction in a flowering plant – a cluster

process of seed formation – had the repro-

of 18 tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period

ductive act been completed.

– with one of them in the process of making

“In Cretaceous flowers we’ve never before Pollen tubes

some new seeds for the next generation.

seen a fossil that shows the pollen tube actu-

The perfectly-preserved scene, in a plant

ally entering the stigma,” said George Poinar,

now extinct, is part of a portrait created in the mid-Cre-

Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative

taceous when flowering plants were changing the face of

Biology at the OSU College of Science. “This is the beauty

the Earth forever, adding beauty, biodiversity and food. It

of amber fossils. They are preserved so rapidly after enter-

appears identical to the reproduction process that “angio-

ing the resin that structures such as pollen grains and

sperms,” or flowering plants still use today.

tubes can be detected with a microscope.”

Researchers from Oregon State University and

The pollen of these flowers appeared to be sticky,

Germany published their findings on the fossils in the

Poinar said, suggesting it was carried by a pollinating

Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas.

insect, and adding further insights into the biodiversity

The flowers themselves are in remarkable condition,

and biology of life in this distant era. At that time much

as are many such plants and insects preserved for all time

of the plant life was composed of conifers, ferns, moss-

in amber. The flowing tree sap covered the specimens and

es, and cycads. During the Cretaceous, new lineages of

then began the long process of turning into a fossilized,

mammals and birds were beginning to appear, along with

semi-precious gem. The flower cluster is one of the most

the flowering plants. But dinosaurs still dominated the

complete ever found in amber and appeared at a time

Earth.

when many of the flowering plants were still quite small.

“The evolution of flowering plants caused an enormous change in the biodiversity of life on Earth, especially in the tropics and subtropics,” Poinar said.

ABOUT THE OSU COLLEGE OF SCIENCE:

“New associations between these small flowering

As one of the largest academic units

plants and various types of insects and other animal life

at OSU, the College of Science has seven

resulted in the successful distribution and evolution of

departments and 12 pre-professional

these plants through most of the world today,” he said.

programs. It provides the basic science

“It’s interesting that the mechanisms for reproduction that

courses essential to the education

are still with us today had already been established some

of every OSU student, builds future

100 million years ago.”

leaders in science, and its faculty are

The fossils were discovered from amber mines in the

international leaders in scientific

Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, previously known as Burma.

research.

The newly-described genus and species of flower was named Micropetasos burmensis.

www.balticjewellerynews.com

94

Baltic Jewellery News (September 2014) No. 27  

Baltic Jewelllery News – 100 page magazine published in English, since 2005 and distributed in the whole Baltic Sea Region countries: Lithua...

Baltic Jewellery News (September 2014) No. 27  

Baltic Jewelllery News – 100 page magazine published in English, since 2005 and distributed in the whole Baltic Sea Region countries: Lithua...

Advertisement