Admit it, you thought this was about Mummy Porn. Sicko.
No, this bit of news is all about old plants.
Two 400-million-year-old fossil plants are the oldest known examples of wood. They are small herbs, suggesting that wood did not evolve to help plants grow tall.
Both fossils date from the early Devonian period, by which time simple plants had long colonised the land and begun diversifying. One was found in France and dates from 407 million years ago, while the other, from Canada, is 397 million years old.
According to lead researcher Philippe Gerrienne of the University of Liège, Belgium, they predate the previous record-holders by at least 10 million years.
Trees would not evolve until about 385 million years ago, at which point they began scrambling to grow taller in order to capture more light. Wood was crucial for this, because it made their trunks sturdier.
But Gerrienne thinks that was not why wood first evolved. His fossils are stems only 12 centimetres long, so they wouldn’t need the support. Instead he thinks the wood improved the flow of water up the stems.
Is this guy onto something with his theory or is he barking up the wrong tree *rimshot* Oh, come on. How can I not go there.
According to Sherwin Carlquist, who has quite a bit of info on wood evolution, “Conductive efficiency, conductive safety, and mechanical strength are often cited as the main functions of wood, but there are others (storage and conduction of photosynthates, for example). ”
This Carlquist fellow has done a lot of work in this area. I wonder what his take on this would be.
Perhaps it is not two separate issues. Maybe plants needed to grow taller for access to light, massive growth required more water, wood improved water flow.
Perhaps it was just an inevitable result of adapting to a more rigid, less-oceany environment.
Maybe it was a defense against ancient crop circle makers.
- Fossil Reveals Oldest Pregnant Lizard (livescience.com)
- Found: World’s oldest wood – so far (newscientist.com)
- Enormous bird lived alongside dinosaurs (msnbc.msn.com)
- 6 million years of savanna (eurekalert.org)