Scientists identify new flowers from a forest that existed 100 million years ago

Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Valviloculus pleristaminis is a perfect example.

Scientists only recently identified this mysterious, extinct flower. It once flourished in the Cretaceous Period – a relic of flowers from bygone times that has been kept in timeless amber since a nameless day when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth.

“This isn’t a Christmas flower, but it’s a beauty, especially when you consider that it was part of a forest that existed 100 million years ago,” says Professor Emeritus George Poinar Jr. of Oregon State University.

Poinar Jr. is something of an authority on amber’s time capsule-like abilities.

The Octogenarian entomologist is widely considered to be the scientist who popularized the phenomenon of the predominance of prehistoric insects and nematodes in tree sap over geological time – ideas that literally flew in the pop culture imagination for most of the time Jurassic Park.

010 old flower 2(George Poinar Jr./OSU)

This lifelong focus began decades ago, but Poinar Jr.’s academic achievements are still amazing. In recent years he has described old, clogged ticks, discovered new orders of insect life, traced the origins of malaria, and found his fair share of forgotten flowers.

V. pleristaminiswhich represents both a new genus and a new type of flower, is one of the newest in this ever-growing bouquet.

“The male flower is tiny, about 2 millimeters wide, but has about 50 stamens that are arranged in a spiral and their anthers point towards the sky,” explains Poinar.

“Although so small, the remaining detail is amazing. Our specimen was likely part of a cluster on the plant that contained many similar flowers, some possibly female.”

The specimen in question was obtained from amber mines in Myanmar, which were kept in marine sediment deposits from the Middle Cretaceous about 99 million years ago.

010 old flower 2(George Poinar Jr./OSU)

According to the researchers V. pleristaminis, an example of an angiosperm (flowering plant), probably belongs to the order of Laurales and is particularly similar to the families Monimiaceae and Atherospermataceae.

However, this strange, extinct flower offers more than just clues to the history of floral evolution.

According to Poinar Jr., V. pleristaminis and other Burmese amber angiosperm fossils like this one may also help solve a preeminent mystery surrounding the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, from which these plants first emerged.

Specifically, V. pleristaminis would have once bloomed on a piece of Gondwana called the West Burma Block that broke off from the rest of the supercontinent at an unknown point in history.

When is a matter of debate, with some geological hypotheses tracing the date of separation back to 500 million years.

However, research by Poinar Jr. suggests that the West Burma Block could not have rafted from Gondwana to Asia prior to the Early Cretaceous, as angiosperms did not evolve and diversify until about 100 million years ago.

The debate probably won’t end anytime soon, however V. pleristaminis and his amber type offer a new school of thought on the matter – a burgeoning mystery waiting to be told for nearly 100 million years.

“The dating of [the West Burma Block] The tectonic migration from Gondwana is not yet firmly established, but the 100 Ma age of amber with its enclosed plant and animal fossils from the southern hemisphere could contribute to a possible solution to this problem, “the researchers write.

The results are reported in Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.