Evolution is a gradual process which continues for years. Little insights into old fossils give us important information about the evolution process of plants, which largely remains a mystery.
A group of scientists have studied some millions of years old fossils stored at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. One of these fossils belonged to a plant species which has nothing in common with the species found today.
The research, which was published in Current Biology, is aimed at studying about how the reproduction process evolved in the plants over the years.
To conduct the research, the team studied around 30 small rock fragments at the museum, originally excavated from the Campbellton Formation of New Brunswick in Canada. Over 80 reproductive structures were identified and studied by these scientists.
While most of these structures contained spores, an important part of the reproduction process in plants, the difference in these spores got the team excited to dig further. Andrew Leslie, a senior author, explained, “It’s rare to get this many sporangia with well-preserved spores that you can measure.”
He said that the study of land plant reproduction is one of increased division of labour and specialisation and complexity. While it might be difficult, someone has to begin the process.
Interestingly, these fossils give an insight into the period when the evolution process began in the plants. The fossilised species belongs to the early Devonian geological period, spanning between 419.2 million and 358.9 million years ago.