How would you feel if someone told you that all of the flowers in the world come from one ancestor? While it may seem dramatic, it’s true, according to a new study published in the British journal Nature Communications.
A group of international scientists has discovered that the world’s first flower sprouted about 140 million years ago. It looked similar to the common-day water lily, with circles of petals and protruding pollen spikes in the center of the bud. While scientists say that it is similar to one of the most widely known lilies, the Madonna lily, which is also the oldest lily on record, dating back 3,000 years, the head scientist explains to USA Today that it is hard to really compare pre historic flowers to flowers of today.
Herve Sauquet, an evolutionary biologist at the Paris-Sud University explained:
“All flowering plants have evolved and changed since that ancestor, that’s how evolution works. So there is no single species or group of species that would have existed some long time ago and still exists today unchanged.”
For their study, the scientists used an evolutionary tree to connect all species of plants, 792 in particular, to this one flower. Interestingly enough, the scientists were able to find that what they originally thought concerning the flower’s sexual organs was false. This finding actually was able to help the scientists plot out a whole new vision for exactly how pre historic flowers evolved to the flowers of today.
However, Sauquet points out that while no fossil exists from 140 million years ago, the researchers were able to compare the oldest finding, from 130 million years ago, and link it to 10 million years prior simply because they could link the flower’s sexual organs to similar flowers they know to existed at that time.
So while this was a great finding, the researchers are still trying to figure out where and when the first flower formed in the world. But with this information, they’re hopeful that they’re close.