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March 08, 2017

Cretaceous fossil relative of Ginkgo discovered

An international team of paleontologists  have discovered a new extinct species of plant from the Early Cretaceous  that appears to be distantly related to living Ginkgo biloba. The fossils, named Umaltolepis mongoliensis, were collected from ancient peat deposits at the Tevshiin Govi lignite mine in the steppes of central Mongolia. 

Results of the research, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are published in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"The stems and leaves are similar to the Ginkgo tree, but the seeds, and especially the structures they are born in, are unlike any other known plant, living or extinct," says scientist Patrick Herendeen of the Chicago Botanic Garden, co-author of the PNAS paper. 
The seed-bearing structures are more comparable to those of certain extinct Peltaspermales and Umkomasiales.

Ginkgo may be the last survivor of a once highly diverse group of extinct plants, several of which show various degrees of ovule enclosure.  

Read more: 
PNAS  + supporting info
Chicago Botanic Garden + more photos 

More info about Ginkgo fossils on my website: Fossils-page.

Picture: Chicago Botanic Garden

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