With the impending end of the world a hot topic in science news (discussed on B9), other researchers based in Switzerland are busy discussing its beginnings.
Scientists have recently uncovered pollen fossils believed to be roughly 243 million years old. This now makes them the oldest flowering plant ancestor fossils found to date. This pollen is estimated to have existed in the Early Triassic period. The previous titleholders, fossilized pollen from the Early Cretaceous period are a substantial 100 million years younger than the new discoveries.
This finding is significant because until now scientists lacked fossil evidence to cross compare with dates from molecular estimates. With these new samples, researchers can finally come to an agreement about the age of flowering plants in the phylogenetic tree of life.
Peter Hochuli and Susanne Feist-Burkhardt from the Paleontological Institute and Museum at the University of Zurich examined the specimens with Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy, which allows for the creation of high resolution 3-dimensional images of the samples for further study.