Amber captures rare plant behavior in extinct ancient pine cone – Boston News, Weather, Sports

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – The first fossil evidence of the seeds of the pine plant has been preserved in 40 million-year-old amber.

Germination of seeds usually occurs in the ground after the seed has fallen, but many of the embryonic stems emerging from an old pine cone have been picked up in a rare botanical act known as early germination, or viviparity, in which the seeds germinate before leaving the fruit.

“That’s part of what makes this discovery so intriguing, that it is even then the first fossil record of plant vitality involving seed germination,” George Poinar, Jr., a paleontologist at Oregon State College of Science and author of a study on the discovery, In a press release.

“I find it great that the seeds in this little pine cone start to germinate inside the cone and the buds can grow so far before they perish in the resin.”

Early germination in pine cones is so rare that only one naturally occurring example of this condition, since 1965, has been described in the scientific literature, Poinar said in the statement.

When seed germination occurs within plants, it tends to be in things like fruit—think of the little peppers you sometimes see when you cut a sweet pepper—but it’s rarer in gymnosperms like conifers that produce “naked” or unclosed seeds.

A petrified pine cone is from an extinct species of pine called Pinus cembrifolia. Clusters of needles preserved in Baltic amber appear, some in bundles of five.

Some of the extraordinary discoveries of palaeontology in recent years have come from amber: dinosaur tail, parts of birds, insects, lizards and primitive flowers have been found buried in balls of resin from trees dating back millions of years. Living organisms and plants look like they just died yesterday and are often so exquisitely preserved in detail that would otherwise be lost in crushing fossils formed in rocks.

Based on their location, Poinar said, some, if not most, of the stem growth occurred after the pine cone had touched the sticky tree resin. The research was published in the Journal of Historical Biology last week.

Poinar has worked on amber fossils for decades, and first discovered in a 1982 study that amber can preserve intracellular structures in an organism trapped inside. His work inspired science fiction in the “Jurassic Park” book and movie series, in which DNA is extracted from dinosaur blood inside a mosquito trapped in amber to recreate prehistoric creatures.

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