NANJING, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — Chinese researchers have found a peculiar fossil plant with leaves and fruits of different morphologies dating back about 125 million years, according to a local research institute.
The plant, scientifically called Varifructus lingyuanesis, provides a rare raw material for evaluating the evolution of flowers in the Early Cretaceous, according to Wang Xin, head of the research team from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The preserved part of the plant is about 17 cm long and 12 cm wide, and includes multiple physically connected organs such as branches, leaves, a flower bud, and fruits. The fruits are frequently arranged in asymmetrical pairs, and two branching patterns are seen in this single specimen.
The plant belongs to a type of angiosperm, the most advanced, diversified, and widely-distributed plant group in the current ecosystem. Organs of most angiosperms nowadays have the same morphology, unlike the one found in the fossil.
“These variable patterns within a single plant indicate the morphological plasticity of angiosperms during the early period of its evolution,” Wang said.
The research findings have been published in the journal Historical Biology.