The first fossil evidence of a pine cone germinating seeds was preserved in amber for 40 million years.
Seed germination normally occurs in the soil after the seed has fallen, but several embryonic stems have been captured emerging from the ancient pine cone in a rare botanical feat known as early germination, or viviparity, in which the seeds sprout before leaving the fruit.
“That’s part of what makes this discovery so intriguing, as well as being the first fossil record of plant viviparity involving seed germination,” said George Poinar Jr., a paleobiologist at Oregon State College of Science and author of a study on seed germination. discovery, in a press release.
“I find it fascinating that the seeds of this little pine cone can start to germinate inside the pine cone and the shoots can grow so far before they perish in the resin.”
Early germination in pine cones is so rare that only one natural example of the condition in 1965 was described in the scientific literature, Poinar said in the statement.
When seed germination occurs inside plants, it tends to be in things like fruit – think of the pepper you sometimes see when you open a pepper – but it’s rare in gymnosperms like conifers that produce “bare” or non-closed seeds.
The fossilized pine cone is from an extinct species of pine called Pinus cembrifolia. Preserved in Baltic amber, clusters of needles are visible, some in bundles of five.
Some of the most extraordinary discoveries in paleontology in recent years have come from amber: a dinosaur tail, parts of early birds, insects, lizards, and flowers have all been found buried in globes of tree resin that date back millions of years.
The vivid creatures and plants look like they died yesterday, and are often exquisitely preserved with details that would otherwise be lost in crushing fossils formed in rock.
Based on its position, some, if not most, of the stem growth occurred after the cone came in contact with the tree’s sticky resin, Poinar said. The research was published in the journal Historical Biology last week.
Poinar worked on amber fossils for decades, discovering for the first time in a 1982 study that amber could preserve intracellular structures in an organism trapped within it.
His work inspired fictional science in the “Jurassic Park” book and movie franchise, where DNA is extracted from dinosaur blood inside a mosquito trapped in amber to recreate prehistoric creatures.
Translated text. Read the original in English.
Reference: CNN Brasil