Scientists have analyzed the Montsechia fossil and believe that it could be the first flower in the world. The fossil lived 130 million years ago and it is the first known example of an aquatic flowering plant that fully submerged.
A team of paleobotanists led by Bernard Gomez have analyzed hundreds of fossils newly collected from northeastern Spain and their conclusion was that Montsechia flowered and was pollinated underwater. They compared it with Ceratophyllum, a plant which can be found nowadays around the world.
One of the researchers David Dilcher from Indiana University explained:
This plant would be very similar to some weedy vegetation if you were out in a lake canoeing and happened to pull up on your paddle some long stringy water weeds. It was a type of water weed that lived submerged in the water. It’s called coontail today and quite common in many lakes all around the world,”
This discovery has made scientists look into the nature and relationship of early plants. Such fossils were discovered for the first time 100 years ago in the lithographic limestone of Pyrenees Mountains. These fossils with their unusual sprawling stems were little understood. Few experts agreed that the fossils are flowering plants. They were considered either mosses or conifers.
The team discovered two types of fossils: one that shows leaves which start right from the stem and only seldom have matured seeds attached and another which has small leaves closely pressed to the stem and quite frequently has mature fruits. The two types of leaves were found at the same fossil localities.
According to the researchers Monteschia used water in order to disperse its pollen instead of wind or animals pollinators. So it did not display any blossoms which we associate with flowers nowadays. However because of the fact that it contained fruit that enclosed seeds it is classified as a flowering plant since this is the basic feature specific to angiosperms.
Flowers as we know them today have petals, female carpels which contain fruit and mature into fruits and male stamens containing anthers and filaments which produce pollen. However in the case of Montsechia no male flowers were identified. It seemed to have separate flowers which contained carpels and pollen organs.
Image Source: express.co.uk