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Flowering plants survived the catastrophe that killed dinosaurs, study says

When Carlos Drummond de Andrade stated that a flower “pierced the asphalt, the boredom, the disgust and the hate”, in “A flor e a nausea”, the poet was describing a symbolic event, but it is possible that this resilience has some support scientific, according to a new article published in the scientific journal “Biology Letters”, last Wednesday (13).

The study indicates that the extinction rates of angiosperms — a group of plants whose main characteristics are the presence of flowers and fruits — remained constant throughout geological time, with their lineages even surviving the event that exterminated non-avian dinosaurs. of planet Earth.

According to the researchers, there is no evidence that the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction, which wiped out more than 75% of animal species around 66 million years ago, had the same effect on flowering plants. .

Although fossil records indicate that many angiosperm species became extinct, the lineages to which they belonged, such as families and orders, survived long enough to dominate the terrestrial biome.

Today, angiosperms represent approximately 78% of all plants on our planet, with a number of around 290 thousand species.

To arrive at the data, scientists analyzed evolutionary trees constructed from mutations in the DNA sequences of up to 73,000 living species of flowering plants.

“After most of Earth’s species went extinct in K-Pg, angiosperms took advantage, similar to how mammals took over after dinosaurs, and now virtually all life on Earth is ecologically dependent on flowering plants.” , described Jamie Thompson, one of the study’s authors.

According to the analysis, the resilience of these plants must be associated with innovations acquired by the group of angiosperms, such as the ability to pollinate by animals and the wind, in addition to the photosynthesis mechanism known as “CAM” — a typical adaptation of species that live in an environment arid.

Santiago Ramírez-Barahona, another scientist involved in the research, explained: “Flowering plants have a remarkable capacity for adaptation: they use a variety of seed dispersal and pollination mechanisms, some have duplicated their entire genome and others have developed new forms of photosynthesis. .”

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Source: CNN Brasil

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