Researchers from Oregon State University have discovered a new genus and species of flower which is from the mid-Cretaceous period. It’s a male specimen which found in Myanmar and was frozen in time by Burmese amber.
George Poinar Jr., professor emeritus in the OSU College of Science, said that this was a part of a forest that existed 100 million years ago.
This newly discovered male flower is tiny, about 2 millimetres in size. Even with such a small size, it has about 50 stamens arranged in a spiral with anthers pointing towards the sky.
The team said that the specimen probably was part of a cluster on the plant that had many similar flowers, including a few female species too.
The recent discovery has an egg-shaped, hollow floral cup (from which the stamens spread out), an outer layer comprising six petal-like components known as tepals and also has two-chamber anthers with pollen sacs which split open via laterally hinged valves.
The new flower has been named Valviloculus pleristaminis (sounds confusing right:)) by the team. The name comes from Latin term Valva meaning leaf on a folding door, loculus means compartment, plerus refers to many, and staminis reflects the flower’s dozens of male sex organs.
Poinar added that the flower would have been encased in amber on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana and rafted on a continental plate some 4,000 miles across the ocean from Australia to Southeast Asia.
There’s a debate going on when the chunk of land known as the West Burma Block broke away from Gondwana. Few believe it was 200 million years ago, while others claim to be around 500 million years ago.
Many angiosperm flowers have been found in Burmese amber.
Angiosperms are vascular plants with stems, roots and leaves, with eggs that are fertilized and develop inside the flower.
Poinar said that as angiosperms evolved about 100 million years ago, there’s no possibility that the West Burma block could have broken off from Gondwana before then.
George O. Poinar, Jr., Kenton L. Chambers, Urszula T. Iwaniec, Fernando E. Vega. Valviloculus pleristaminis gen. et sp. nov., a Lauralean fossil flower with valvate anthers from mid-Cretaceous Myanmar amber. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 2020; 14 (2): 359 DOI: 10.17348/jbrit.v14.i2.1014
Press Release: Oregon State University