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Cretaceous Flowers

January 15, 2014

A sprig of eighteen flowers has been preserved in amber for 100 million years.



A dinosaur-era bouquet. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Micropetasos burmensis (Oregon State University)

Micropetasos burmensis. (Oregon State University)

A cluster of flowers that bloomed a hundred million years ago has just turned up in pristine condition. Oregon State University biologist George Poinar and his colleagues found the flowers trapped in fossilized tree resin, called amber, recovered from a mine in Southeast Asia.

GEORGE POINAR (Oregon State University):

No one has ever found a fossil flower like this. Previously we’ve only had single flowers, or possibly even partial single flowers to work with. Here we have 18 complete flowers, and all adhering to one sprig.

The sample shows the plant’s anatomy in remarkable detail, including active reproductive components like pollen grains and tubes. And while this specimen comes from a previously unknown, extinct species, it functions very much like the flowering plants of today, which are now the most diverse group of land plants on Earth.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.