Flowering plants are neither as old, study suggests

Flowering plants likely originated between 149 and 256 million years ago according to new UCL-led research, co-authored by the University of Bristol.


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A new study by the researchers from the UK and China, flowering plants are neither as old as recommended by past atomic investigations, nor as youthful as an exacting elucidation of their fossil record.

The discoveries underline the energy of utilizing integral examinations in view of atomic information and the fossil record, alongside various ways to deal with gather transformative timescales to build up a more profound comprehension of developmental progression a huge number of years back.

The discrepancy between estimates of flowering plant evolution from molecular data and fossil records has caused much debate. Even Darwin described the origin of this group as an ‘abominable mystery’.

Dr Jose Barba-Montoya said, “To uncover the key to solving the mystery of when flowers originated, we carefully analysed the genetic make-up of flowering plants, and the rate at which mutations accumulate in their genomes.”

Through the viewpoint of the fossil record, blooming plants seem to have expanded all of a sudden, accelerating a Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution in which pollinators, herbivores and predators experienced hazardous co-advancement.

Atomic clock dating considers, nonetheless, have proposed a significantly more established root for blooming plants, inferring an obscure development of blossoms that isn’t archived in the fossil record.

“In vast part, the error between these two methodologies is a curio of false exactness on both palaeontological and sub-atomic transformative timescales.”

Palaeontological timescales align the family tree of plants to topographical time in view of the most established fossil confirmation for its segment branches. Sub-atomic timescales expand on this approach, utilizing extra proof from genomes for the hereditary separations between species, intending to defeat holes in the fossil record.

“Past investigations into sub-atomic timescales neglected to investigate the ramifications of exploratory factors thus they incorrectly appraise the plausible period of blooming plants with undue exactness.

Professor Philip Donoghue from the University of Bristol said, “Similarly, interpretations of the fossil record have not fully recognised its shortcomings as an archive of evolutionary history, that is, that the oldest fossil evidence of flowering plants comes from very advanced, not primitive flowering plant lineages.”

The researchers compiled a large collection of genetic data for many flowering plant groups including a dataset of 83 genes from 644 taxa, together with a comprehensive set of fossil evidence to address the timescale of flowering plant diversification.

“By using Bayesian statistical methods that borrow tools from physics and mathematics to model how the evolutionary rate changes with time, we showed that there are broad uncertainties in the estimates of flowering plant age, all compatible with early to mid-Cretaceous origin for the group,” said Dr Mario dos Reis (School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London), a co-author of the study.

The study published today in New Phytologist.


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