Menu
Science and Life
Runway reveals how pterodactyls land
Stem cell researchers see red
War's end opens up Angolan 'Jurassic Park'
Not all alcoholic drinks are the same
Fewer mosquitoes may be a bad thing
Prehistoric tail swingers had sweet spot
Astronomers bust star ratio myth
Sun causes 'La Nina-like effect' on earth
Three genes key to most dog hair types
Manure major source of greenhouse gas
Nanoparticle test may detect lung cancer
Pulsar burns longest ever cosmic trail
Mysterious weather pulses fuel cyclones
Technology makes valuing opals easier
Doubt cast on cannabis, schizophrenia link
Whistling feathers sound predator alarm
Climate may need emergency fix: report
Africa tops climate change risk list
Mesozoic 'Giraffe' unearthed in China
Cannibalism feeds galactic growth
'Climate' genes leave species vulnerable
'Thunder thighs' protect your heart: study
Daylight saving 'causes more accidents'
One-sided animals more successful
  Amber gives clues to origin of flowers
Scientists have discovered a piece of fossilised amber that came from a plant living more than 300 million years ago.

The research, published in a the latest edition of Science, shows plants of the day were far more sophisticated than previously thought.

PhD student and lead author of the paper, Paul Sargent Bray of Macquarie University in Sydney, says different plants produce different types of amber, or fossilised tree resin.

"You can tell what kind of plant is producing what kind of amber by the resin's chemistry."

Sargent Bray says he found the amber in a piece of coal during a field trip while studying at Southern Illinois University in the US.

When he studied the resin's chemistry he found it was very similar to that produced by some modern day plants.

The ancient amber has a very similar chemical makeup to the resin produced by angiosperms, more commonly known as flowering plants, says Sargent Bray.

But he says angiosperms only start showing up in the fossil record at the beginning of the Cretaceous period, around 120 million years ago.

The coal containing the amber dates back at least 300 million years, which is known as the Carboniferous period, he says.
Different planet

Organic geochemist and Sargent Bray's supervisor Dr Simon Green, also of Macquarie University, says the earth was a very different place 300 million years ago.

"It was dominated by tropical jungles, and it was much hotter and wetter."

But there is no evidence of flowering plants back then, says Green .

He says the dominant plants were gymnosperms, fern like plants that are predominantly extinct today.

Sargent Bray says the big question is when did the angiosperms diverge from their ancestors, the gymnosperms.

"The amber work doesn't answer that question, but it provides some perspective on parts of the biology that might be involved in the divergence," he says.

Sargent Bray says more amber specimens need to found between the Carboniferous and Cretaceous period to gain a better understanding of the origin of flowering plants.

He says they're not suggesting that flowering plants existed earlier than was previously thought, "but perhaps the biology started to appear a lot earlier than expected."

Green agrees. "It sheds some light on the origin of flowering plants."
Echidna ancestors swam with platypuses
Volleyball middle players jump to the max
Roaches hold their breath to stay alive
Suspected Trojan war-era couple found
Dust storm born out of flooding rains
Droughts and flooding rains to intensify
Gene study reveals Indian origins
Malaria drugs may get new lease of life
HIV vaccine breakthrough 'gives hope'
Anglo-Saxon treasure trove unearthed
Cold Aussie dinos hid underground
Sichuan quake once-in-4000-year event
Stem cells point to space ills
Viking 2 came close to finding H2O
Working mums' kids less healthy
Komodo dragon had Australian origins
Bacteria engineered to draw pictures
Samoan tsunami caused by 'shallow quake'
'Academic doping' set to rise: expert
Bird disease struck down T. rex
Mini sats to improve Earth observation
Oldest human ancestor unveiled
Amber gives clues to origin of flowers
Fungus feasted on mass extinction
New disease identified in pet turtles
Brittle bone genes revealed
Pioneers of light win physics Nobel
Antioxidants may raise diabetes risk
 
Astronomers get neutron star's measure
Bioprospecting needs ecologists: expert
Saturated fats linked to Alzheimer's
Gecko tails dance to their own tune
Cartoons set chimps yawning
Virus may cause prostate cancer: study
Researchers perfect quantum memory
Australian lacewings build toughest silk
NO enzymes help bacteria resist antibiotics
Hikers' socks give weeds a free ride
Migrating birds chill to conserve energy
Borders tell tales on land management
Forget foreplay, size does matter: study
Shower heads home to nasty microbes
Saturn home to the perfect storm
Crazy ants upsetting island ecosystem
New call for e-waste controls
Gene tech helps dandelions ooze rubber
New insights into Greenland icesheet
Mini T. rex ancestor found in China
Rare meteorite find in Australian outback
Scientists uncover how bugs evade capture
World's deltas subsiding, says study
'Quiet' Sun continues to affect Earth