Jurassic herbaceous angiosperm plant fossil found

Paleobotanists have found fossils of perhaps world's earliest herbaceous angiosperm plant from the mid-Jurassic period (more than 164 million years ago) in north China's Inner Mongolia.

The finding was published on the latest English edition of Acta Geologica Sinica, an academic journal owned by the Geological Society of China.

The plant -- Juraherba bodae -- was found near in the southeast corner of Inner Mongolia by professor Han Gang of the palaeontological center of Bohai University in Liaoning Province.

Less than four centimeters tall, the fossil has root, stem, leaves and fruit well preserved. "The occurrence of fructifications implies that the plant is already mature," Han said. "The small size of this mature plant indicates that Juraherba is a herbaceous seed plant, most likely an angiosperm. The seeds enclosed in the fructifications further confirm angiospermous affinity."

It could be the earliest record of herbaceous seed plants as well as of herbaceous angiosperms. "Most Western botanists believe that angiosperms originated from the early Cretaceous period (about 125 million years ago), but the discovery of Juraherba bodae moves that date back 40 million years," Han said.

Botanist Li Bingtao described the finding as a "great discovery."

"Angiosperms are the largest plant group, however, their origins and early evolution remain a mystery," he said. "This discovery will challenge the view that woody plants are ancestral to angiosperms."

The article was co-authored by Liu Xueling from Bohai University, Liu Zhongjian from the National Orchid Conservation Center, Frederic M.B. Jacques from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, as well as Mao Limi and Wang Xin from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology.

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