Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

World’s greatest plant diversity for the Paleogene: Over a hundred different plant species recorded at the Messel fossil site

Date:
July 27, 2012
Source:
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum
Summary:
Scientists have investigated the extensive collection of fruits and seeds from the Messel pit. They found 140 different plant species, 65 of which were previously unknown. They show that Messel had one of the world’s most diverse floras of the Paleogene – the era between about 65 and 23 million years ago.

Hitherto unknown hairy fruit with remains of light coloured secretions.
Credit: Š Senckenberg

Scientists from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt have investigated the extensive collection of fruits and seeds from the Messel pit. They found 140 different plant species, 65 of which were previously unknown.

Related Articles


The results were published July 27 in the series "Abhandlungen der Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung." They show that Messel had one of the world's most diverse floras of the Paleogene -- the era between about 65 and 23 million years ago.

Dwarf-horses, the primate Ida and jewel beetles -- the spectacular findings from the fossil site at Messel near Darmstadt are known worldwide. However, the plant fossils from Messel are also unique in their diversity. A team of scientists from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, the University of London and the Florida Museum of Natural History now provides an overview of the wealth of plant life 47 million years ago in a 250-page monograph.

Altogether the international team described 140 plant species from the collections of Senckenberg and the Hessian State Museum in Darmstadt. The seeds and fruits, as well as many leaves, flowers and pollen grains were recovered during excavations by both institutions in the previous decades but they had not been studied in detail before. "We have found numerous remains of a diversity of flowering plants and some conifers," says Dr Volker Wilde, head of the palaeobotany section at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt. "More than 60 types of plants could not be assigned to any known family -- they are genuine new discoveries."

Ten of the recently described families of flowering plants were previously unknown at Messel, three genera were even described for the first time for the Palaeogene. The monograph proves that Messel is one of the world's richest sites for fossils of flowering plants.

"We are impressed not only by the large number of different plant families but also by the variety of dispersal strategies they had developed even at that time," adds Wilde. Some developed wings on their seeds and relied on wind, some depended on animals to spread them, while others developed exploding capsules to scatter their seeds over a wide area.

"From the flora described we are also able to draw conclusions about the diet of animals 47 million years ago," the Frankfurt palaeobotanist explains. "Fruits and seeds in the digestive tracts of vertebrates indicate that they were an important part of their food. Tiny holes in seeds also show that the famous Messel weevils also fed on certain plants."

The flora is also ideal for reconstructing climatic and environmental conditions of the Paleogene. Having analysed around 30,000 plant remains, the scientists conclude that there was a warm tropical climate with slight seasonal variations. The palaeobotanists' work therefore confirms the previous studies on the palaeoclimate at the time of the Messel lake.

"We believe the Messel lake was surrounded by a more or less tropical multi-storey rainforest, similar to those in areas with a comparable climate today. We also identified a high proportion of lianas and several marsh plants -- virtually on our doorstep, it was a real jungle out there at Messel 47 million years ago," says Wilde.

Publication Abhandlungen der SGN, 570 Margaret E. Collinson, Steven R. Manchester and Volker Wilde: Fossil Fruits and Seeds of the Middle Eocene Messel biota, Germany 2012, 251 pp, 2 figs, 3 tabs, 76 plates, ISBN 978-3-510-61400-4


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "World’s greatest plant diversity for the Paleogene: Over a hundred different plant species recorded at the Messel fossil site." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120727082523.htm>.
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. (2012, July 27). World’s greatest plant diversity for the Paleogene: Over a hundred different plant species recorded at the Messel fossil site. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120727082523.htm
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "World’s greatest plant diversity for the Paleogene: Over a hundred different plant species recorded at the Messel fossil site." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120727082523.htm (accessed January 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Poultry Culled in Taiwan to Thwart Bird Flu

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 28, 2015) — Taiwan culls over a million poultry in efforts to halt various strains of avian flu. Julie Noce reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Aquaponics Turn Suburban Industrial Park Into Farmland: Hume

Aquaponics Turn Suburban Industrial Park Into Farmland: Hume

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) — Ancient techniques of growing greens with fish and water are well ahead of Toronto bylaws. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chihuahua Sleeps on Top of Great Dane

Chihuahua Sleeps on Top of Great Dane

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) — As this giant Great Dane lays down for bedtime he accompanied by an adorable companion. Watch a tiny Chihuahua jump up and prepare to sleep on top of his friend. Now that&apos;s a pretty big bed! Credit to &apos;emma_hussey01&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Madagascar Locust Plague Could Mean Famine For Millions

Madagascar Locust Plague Could Mean Famine For Millions

Newsy (Jan. 27, 2015) — The Food and Agriculture Organization says millions could face famine in Madagascar without more funding to finish locust eradication efforts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins