A plant’s ancient relationship with a beetle

Aug 16, 2018

Evidence in amber

CYCADS look the part of foliage on a “Jurassic Park” film set for a reason. The plants are indeed very ancient. They evolved during the Permian period, millions of years before the first dinosaurs existed. Although classified in the same group as conifers, cycads do not release their pollen into the wind like the rest of their kin. Instead, each species of cycad that remains today relies on a specific type of beetle for pollination. This is unusual for a non-flowering plant like the cycad, and has left palaeobotanists curious about how long the plants have relied upon this method. The answer, it seems, is just about for ever.

According to a study by Chenyang Cai of the University of Bristol, in Britain, reported in Current Biology this week, cycads have been luring beetles to do their bidding for nearly 100m years. Dr Cai has found the evidence in a fossil. Seeing two organisms interacting with one another in a fossil is...

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