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Seven tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period discovered in 100 MILLION-year-old amber look like they were 'just picked from the garden'

  • Researchers found seven well-preserved flowers entombed in Burmese amber
  • Analysis revealed it's a new species of petal-less flower, from a rainforest tree
  • Despite being 100 million years old, the experts say they look 'just picked'

Seven perfectly-preserved flowers found entombed in Burmese amber are old enough to have been bumped out of a tree by a wandering Tyrannosaurus rex.

Researchers say the intact specimens, thought to have come from a rainforest tree, represent a new species of petal-less flower that dates back 100 million years.

It is the largest collection from this age to be analyzed yet for a single study, and despite many years existing in fossilized form, the experts say look like they were just picked.

Seven perfectly-preserved flowers found entombed in Burmese amber are old enough to have been bumped out of a tree by a wandering T rex. Researchers say the intact specimens, thought to have come from a rainforest tree, represent a new species of petal-less flower

Seven perfectly-preserved flowers found entombed in Burmese amber are old enough to have been bumped out of a tree by a wandering T rex. Researchers say the intact specimens, thought to have come from a rainforest tree, represent a new species of petal-less flower

WHAT IS AMBER?

Amber has been used in jewelry for thousands of years, and is often found to hold remarkably well-preserved materials from eras long since passed.

The golden-coloured translucent substance is formed when resin from extinct coniferous trees became hardened and then fossilised.

Often insects, plant material, pollen and other creatures became trapped in the resin, causing them to be entombed within after it solidified.

The amber preserved the floral parts so well that they look like they were just picked from the garden, said George Poinar Jr, professor emeritus in Oregon State University s College of Science.

Dinosaurs may have knocked the branches that dropped the flowers into resin deposits on the bark of an araucaria tree, which is thought to have produced the resin that fossilized into the amber.

Araucaria trees are related to kauri pines found today in New Zealand and Australia, and kauri pines produce a special resin that resists weathering.

The tiny flowers discovered in Myanmar measure from 3.4 to 5 millimeters wide, according to the researchers.

All have five firm sepals that spread out in all directions.

It is the largest collection from this age to be analyzed yet for a single study, and the experts say the flowers look just picked

It is the largest collection from this age to be analyzed yet for a single study, and the experts say the flowers look just picked

Based on these features, they ve named the species Tropidogyne pentaptera, using the Greek word for five (penta) and wing (pteron).

The researchers compare the new flowers to another species recently discovered in amber but, they ve spotted a few notable distinctions.

The new species has spreading, veiny sepals, a necar disc, and a ribbed inferior ovary like T. pikei, Poinar said.

But it s different in that its bicarpellate, with two elongated and slender styles, and the ribs of its inferior ovary don t have darkly pigmented terminal glands like T. Pikei.

Both T. pentaptera and T. pikei have been classified within the family Cunoniaceae, a type of woody plant still in existence today.

The flowers examined in the new study likely came from an ancient rainforest tree, according to the researcher.

In their general shape and venation pattern, the fossil flowers closely resemble those of the genus Ceratopetalum that occur in Australia and Papura-New Guinea, Poinar said.

The amber preserved the floral parts so well that they look like they were just picked from the garden, said George Poinar Jr, professor emeritus in Oregon State University s College of Science

The amber preserved the floral parts so well that they look like they were just picked from the garden, said George Poinar Jr, professor emeritus in Oregon State University s College of Science

One extant species is C. gummiferum, which is known as the New South Wales Christmas bush because its five sepals turn bright reddish pink close to Christmas.

The 100-million-year-old flowers also bear semblance to a living species in Australia known as the coach wood tree.

This, too, has only sepals, and no petals.

It can grow to more than 120 feet, and live for centuries but, it s situated more than 4,000 miles away, and across the ocean, from Myanmar.

Based on these features, they ve named the species Tropidogyne pentaptera, using the Greek word for five (penta) and wing (pteron)
The new species has spreading, veiny sepals, a necar disc, and a ribbed inferior ovary like T. pikei, Poinar said

Based on these features, they ve named the species Tropidogyne pentaptera, using the Greek word for five (penta) and wing (pteron). The new species has spreading, veiny sepals, a necar disc, and a ribbed inferior ovary like T. pikei, Poinar said

The tiny flowers discovered in Myanmar measure from 3.4 to 5 millimeters wide, according to the researchers. All have five firm sepals that spread out in all directions

The tiny flowers discovered in Myanmar measure from 3.4 to 5 millimeters wide, according to the researchers. All have five firm sepals that spread out in all directions

Looking back to the geological history of these regions, however, the researcher says it s easy to see how this relationship may have arisen.

Probably the amber site in Myanmar was part of Greater India that separated from the southern hemisphere, the supercontinent Gondwanaland, and drifted to southern Asia, Poinar said.

Malaysia, including Burma, was formed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoix eras by subduction of terranes that successfully separated and then moved northward by continental drift.

Dinosaurs may have knocked the branches that dropped the flowers into resin deposits on the bark of an araucaria tree, which is thought to have produced the resin that fossilized into the amber,' the researcher said

Dinosaurs may have knocked the branches that dropped the flowers into resin deposits on the bark of an araucaria tree, which is thought to have produced the resin that fossilized into the amber,' the researcher said

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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