May 06, 2017 11:22 AM EDT
Scientists at Oregon State University document evidence of an orchid relic trapped in Baltic amber. Apparently, it is believed to be the oldest fossil of flower on Earth.
The orchid family has roughly 28, 000 species, per Science Daily. To better illustrate, the stats show that orchids have more than double the number of bird species and four times greater than that of the mammals. Now, it looks like the flower has been around for quite some time.
In the study, the experts say that the new orchid fossil dates back to some 45 million to 55 million years ago. Indeed, it is older than the previous sample found in Dominican amber. The latter only dates back to some 20 to 30 million years ago.
Professor Emeritus George Poinar, Jr, the lead author from the College of Science at Oregon State University, noted that researchers are beginning to locate pollen tracks on insects trapped in amber. This means that a new door towards more remarkable discoveries in the future has just been opened. For the record, orchids store their pollen inside a small sac-like structure called pollinia.
Meanwhile, Pollinia have "adhesive pads" that can easily stick to the body parts of feeding insects such as bees, beetles, flies, and gnats. The entire pollination group is known as a pollinarium. In the Oregon study, a tiny female fungus gnat carried the pollinaria of an extinct species of orchid.
According to UPI, the pollinaria was attached to the base of the gnat's hind leg. Poinar, Jr. later stressed that orchids, like the oldest fossil found recently, are "very smart". For one thing, they could attract insects that eventually led to the discovery of their relatives and family history. Well, amber actually preserves fossils so well that experts could see a droplet of congealed blood at the tip of the gnat's broken leg.
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