Extremely well preserved fossils of a prehistoric aquatic plant, Montecchia vidalii, which the scientists believe grew in a Spanish lake more than 125 million years ago, might have been the first flower this world saw. They came to this conclusion after closely studying of a miraculously intact and then brilliantly restored fossil found from an ancient lake bed in Spain.
The fossils of Montecchia plant were first discovered amongst the limestone deposits of the Iberian range in Central Spain more than a century ago and in the Montsec Range of the Pyrenees.
Researchers believe the plant grew in modern day Europe 125 million years ago and was a part of the diet of brachiosaurus and iguanodons which existed at the time.
This not only refutes the popularly believed ‘fact’ that the world’s first flowering plant bloomed on land but also makes the Montsechia more ancient than Archaefructus, a similar Chinese aquatic plant which was, till date, considered to be the ‘first flower’ ever.
The term ‘first flower’ however is technically incorrect.Explains David Dilcher, the archaeobotanist who led the study, “A ‘first flower’ is technically a myth, like the ‘first human. But based on this new analysis, we know now that Montsechia is contemporaneous, if not more ancient, than Archaefructus.”
We can never be sure that an earlier flower never existed from studying the fossils of this plant.
“This discovery raises significant questions about the early evolutionary history of flowering plants, as well as the role of these plants in the evolution of other plant and animal life,” Dilcher said.
“There’s still much to be discovered about how a few early species of seed-bearing plants eventually gave rise to the enormous, and beautiful, variety of flowers that now populate nearly every environment on Earth,” Dilcher said.
The findings were first published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.