Scientists have spotted in rocks from northern China what could also be the oldest fossils of a green plant ever found, tiny seaweed that carpeted areas of the seafloor roughly a billion years ago and were a part of a primordial revolution among life on Earth.
Researchers on Monday said the plant, called Proterocladus antiquus, was about the dimensions of a rice grain and boasted numerous thin branches, thriving in shallow water while attached to the seafloor with a root-like structure.
It may seem small, but Proterocladus – a sort of chlorophyte – was one among the most important organisms of its time, sharing the seas mainly with bacteria and other microbes. It engaged in photosynthesis, transforming energy from sunlight into energy and producing oxygen.
“Proterocladus antiquus may be a close relative of the ancestor of all green plants alive today,” said Qing Tang, a Virginia Tech post-doctoral researcher in paleobiology who detected the fossils in rock dug up in Liaoning Province near the town of Dalian and lead author of the study published within the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Earth’s biosphere depends heavily on plants for food and oxygen. the primary land plants, thought to be descendents of green seaweeds, appeared about 450 million years ago.
There was an evolutionary shift on Earth perhaps 2 billion years ago from simple bacteria-like cells to the primary members of a gaggle called eukaryotes that spans fungi, plants and animals. the primary plants were single-celled organisms. The transition to multicellular plants like Proterocladus was a pivotal development that paved the way for the riot of plants that have inhabited the planet , from ferns to sequoias to the Venus flytrap.
Proterocladus is 200 million years older than the previous earliest-known green seaweed. one among its modern relatives may be a sort of edible seaweed called laver .
Proterocladus represents the oldest unambiguous green plant fossil. Fossils of possible older single-celled green plants are still a matter of debate.
Plants weren’t the primary to practice photosynthesis. that they had an ancestor that apparently acquired the photosynthesis cellular apparatus from a kind of bacteria called cyanobacteria.
This ancestor of all green plants gave rise to 2 major branches, one among them includes some aquatic plants and every one land plants while the opposite – the group to which Proterocladus belongs – is formed up exclusively of aquatic plants.
“Proterocladus antiquus,” Virginia Tech paleobiologist and study co-author Shuhai Xiao said, “is the sister of the evolutionary great, great grandparent of all green plants alive today.”