Pine cones trapped in amber reveal rare and ‘intriguing’ type of plant behavior

Seed germination usually occurs in the ground after the seed has fallen, but some embryonic stems have been captured germinating from ancient pine cones in a rare botanical feat known as early germination, or viviparity, in which seeds germinate before fruiting.

“That’s part of what makes this discovery so fascinating, even further it’s the first fossil record of plant viability related to seed germination.” George Poinar Jr., a paleontologist at Oregon State University of Science and author of a study on the discovery, in a news bulletin.

“I find it exciting that the seeds in this little pine cone can begin to germinate inside the cone and the sprouts can grow so far before they die in the resin.”

In the scientific literature, says Poinar, the precious sprouting phenomenon in pine cones is so rare that only one naturally occurring example of this condition, since 1965, has been described in the scientific literature. learn.

When seeds germinate inside plants, it tends to be in things like fruit – think the baby peppers you sometimes see when you cut bell peppers – but very rarely in gymnosperms, such as plants. conifers reproduce “naked” or not. – angiosperm seeds.

Fossil pine cones are from an extinct species of pine named Pinus cembrifolia. Preserved in Baltic amber, clusters of needles are visible, some in bundles of five.

& # 39;  Blood amber & # 39;  may be a portal into the age of the dinosaurs, but the fossils are an ethical minefield for paleontologists
Some of paleontology’s strangest discoveries in recent years have come from amber: A dinosaur tail, parts of primitive birds, insects, lizards and flowers have all been found in tree sap masses dating back millions of years. Vivid creatures and plants look like they just died yesterday and are often exquisitely preserved with details that would otherwise be lost as fossils form in the rock.

Depending on their location, some, if not most, stem growth occurs after pine cones come into contact with sticky sap, Poinar said. The study was published in the journal History of Biology last week.

Poinar has studied amber fossils for decades, first finding in a 1982 study that amber can preserve intracellular structures in an organism trapped inside. His work inspired science fiction in the “Jurassic Park” series and books, where DNA is extracted from dinosaur blood inside a mosquito trapped in amber to reproduce. prehistoric creatures.


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