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Angiosperms versus gymnosperms: How flowering plants came to rule

Flowerless gymnosperms, resembling conifer and ginkgo, dominated the Jurassic world earlier than their flowering rivals, the angiosperms, turned dominant. What triggered the autumn of 1 and the rise of the opposite?


8 November 2022

Ben Giles

ARGUABLY the world’s weirdest plant, Welwitschia mirabilis is a tangled mass of shredded, fraying leaves within the Namib desert. For a thousand years, maybe extra, it grows simply two lengthy leaves, which creep repeatedly outwards for a lot of metres, turning into torn and ragged. The plant is a lone survivor; fossils recommend its family dates back at least 112 million years to the middle of the Cretaceous, however all its shut kinfolk are gone.

This evolutionary orphan is a gymnosperm – crops that produce seeds, however not true flowers or fruit. Essentially the most acquainted immediately are conifers, a gaggle that features the longest residing organisms on Earth, the bristlecone pines, and the coastal redwood, the world’s tallest timber. However gymnosperms additionally comprise gnetales (like W. mirabilis), the palm-like cycads and ginkgo, also referred to as the maidenhair tree. When dinosaurs roamed Earth, they walked among the many gymnosperms, which dominated the land. However simply because the dinosaur period ended with the Cretaceous, so too did the heyday of the gymnosperms. Right now, there are solely round 1000 species, largely conifers. They cling on in a world conquered by 1 / 4 of one million angiosperm species – the flowering crops.

What went improper? Till not too long ago, the story has been that gymnosperms didn’t stand an opportunity in opposition to these stunning newcomers. Flowers enabled angiosperms to make use of bugs for pollination, boosting their reproductive success and spurring them on to world dominance. However the newest analysis reveals new twists on this historic whodunnit. By higher understanding why gymnosperms misplaced out, we could get some clues about their future, too.

Flowers have lengthy been implicated within the gymnosperms’ demise attributable to timing: when …

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