Scientists Found New Flower Species Trapped In Amber

Posted: Feb 15 2016, 11:09pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 16 2016, 10:35pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists Found New Flower Species Trapped in Amber
Credit:George Poinar

The fossil flower is well-preserved and dates back to 15 million years ago.

Researchers from Rutgers University have discovered an entirely new species of flower trapped inside ancient amber.

The small tubular-shaped flower is measured 10 millimeters and dates back to at least 15 million years. Researchers have matched it with 200 known species of genus Strychnos but found it does not belong to any of them.

The fossilized flower was buried in the mountain area of the Dominican Republic and was possibly locked in tree sap millions of years ago. Researchers have named it Strychnos electri. Electri points to the origin of the flower since elektron is a Greek word for amber.

The surprising thing about the flower is that it’s fully intact and well-preserved. Usually when researchers find a plant fossil inside a piece of amber, it’s in the form of fragments. But it appears that this flower has just ‘fallen from the tree.’ 

“These amber pieces are like time capsules, a frozen moment of life that we can now relive or study,” said Lena Struwe, an expert of genus strychnos. “The flower is incredibly well-preserverd, not distorted, not compressed, not fragmented into pieces, but looks it just fell off its branch and dropped into sticky resin.”

The now-extinct flower was grown in tropical, humid forests alongside a variety of trees, shrubs and woody vines and it was possibly a poisonous plant since it is a member of genus Strychnos which is famous source for highly toxic compound.

Scientists have discovered many fossilized insects and animals from mosquitoes to spiders to lizards and salamanders trapped inside amber but finding fossils is a rarity. Ancient amber is probably the only way to peek into the flowers bloomed millions of years ago.

“Fossil flowers are rare under any circumstances,” said entomologist George Poinar who actually found the specimen. “And those in amber provide the only evidence of ancient tropical flowers, since the rapid decay of such delicate objects under conditions of high heat and humidity prevents their preservation in sedimentary deposits.”

The fossil flower will help understand the evolution of plants in the region of Caribbean and also reflects how much diversity is there in the plants.

“The discovery of this new species in a 30-year-old amber collection highlights that we still have many undiscovered species hidden away in a natural history collections worldwide and not enough taxonomic experts to work through them,” said Lena Struwe. “Strychnos electri has been extinct for a long time, but many new species living and unfortunately soon-to-be-extinct species are discovered by scientists every year.” 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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