Flowering plants stronger than dinosaurs

Researchers have found that flowering plants escaped unscathed from the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.


Whilst plants suffered species loss, the devastating event helped flowering plants become the dominant type of plant they are today. A fascinating article on Phys.org, entitled ‘Nature’s great survivors: Flowering plants survived the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs’ discusses the results the study published in Biology Letters by researchers from the University of Bath and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Until now, the impact of mass extinctions in the earth’s history on plants was unknown. Unlike animals, plants do not have skeletons or exoskeletons which has meant that plant fossils are rare and hence making it very difficult to understand the timeline of evolution fossil evidence. The article explains how Dr. Jamie Thompson of the Milner Centre for Evolution and Dr. Santiago Ramírez-Barahona of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, have been able to analyse evolutionary trees constructed from mutations in DNA sequences of up to 73,000 living species of flowering plants (angiosperms). Evidence now suggests that the vast majority of angiosperm families that are around today existed before the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction, including the ancestors of orchids, magnolia and mint which shared the earth with dinosaurs.

The article quotes Dr. Ramírez-Barahona, who wisely said, ‘Flowering plants have a remarkable ability to adapt: They use a variety of seed-dispersal and pollination mechanisms, some have duplicated their entire genomes and others have evolved new ways to photosynthesize. This ‘flower power’ is what makes them nature’s true survivors‘.