Scientists Solve 'Abominable Mystery' of Flowers

New research finds they could be as old as dinosaurs

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 2, 2013 7:20 AM CDT | Updated Oct 2, 2013 7:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – Flowers have been around since the very first dinosaurs were able to trample them underfoot, new research suggests. Science already knew that flowering plants started showing up in the age of dinosaurs. But a study led by a paleobotanist at the Universty of Zurich has unearthed 245 million-year-old grains of pollen that resemble those of flowering plants—100 million years older than any previously discovered flowers, reports LiveScience.

The scientists used laser scanning microscopy to examine the samples, which date back to the Middle Triassic period, and found six distinct types of pollen that looked almost exactly the same as samples from the Early Cretaceous, reports the BBC. The research, published in Frontiers in Plant Science, sheds light on the long-mysterious origins of flowering plants, which previously looked as though they'd been dominant the moment they appeared. "This sudden appearance has bothered scientists ever since Darwin, who called the origin of flowering plants an 'abominable mystery,'" the lead researcher says.

This illustration from provided by the Natural History Museum of Utah shows a Nasutoceratops titusi.
This illustration from provided by the Natural History Museum of Utah shows a "Nasutoceratops titusi."   (AP Photo/Natural History Museum of Utah, Andrey Atuchin)
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