An early example of the most diverse group of flowering plants has been unearthed in the remarkably rich Yixian Formation in China.
The beautifully preserved stem suggests that early examples of eudicot plants were flourishing between 123 and 126 million years ago, Ge Sun and David Dilcher, of the Shenyang Normal University, and their colleagues report in Nature.
Eudicots are one of five currently recognised lineages of the angiosperms – the flowering plants.
Fossil pollen has already placed eudicots as present 127 to 125 million years ago. Now the new fossil (Leefructus gen. nov.) suggests they were “already present and diverse” around that time, in the early Cretaceous period. It also suggests that angiosperms may have evolved before the Cretaceous, write Sun and Dilcher.
Image: C.T. Li / Nature