Natural history specials are full of scaly monsters thundering over land or splashing through ancient seas. But one of the most important evolutionary developments was the rise of angiosperms in the Jurassic. That’s flowering plants for you civilians. A recent project—the original abstract is here— provides one plausible scenario of what those first flowers may have looked like:
Scientists combined models of flower evolution with the largest data set of features from living flowers ever assembled. From this the team was able to infer the appearance of the ancestral flower. Hervé Sauquet, from Université Paris-Sud, France, one of the authors of the paper published this week in Nature Communications said: “There is no living flower that looks exactly like the ancestral one – and why should there be? This is a flower that existed at least 140 million years ago and has had considerable time to evolve into the incredible diversity of flowers that exist today.”
We owe our existence at just about every step to flowering plants. It was flowers that supported insect communities on which our earliest ancestors fed and it is their distant blooming descendants that give us grain, fruit, and vegetables on which much of the world directly or indirectly feeds today.
The aircraft, two 1960s vintage WB-57F jets that NASA frequently dispatches for high-altitude research, will carry instruments to help scientists study the solar atmosphere. At cruising altitude, the sky will be 20 to 30 times darker than on the ground, enhancing the details in the sun’s atmosphere—and allowing for pictures in the greatest detail yet.
- Do you think you have what it takes to protect the Earth from the alien likes of Kodos and Kang? Then NASA may have the dream job for you!
Nasa is seeking a new “planetary protection officer” tasked with defending the earth from alien life. More specifically, the job’s main concern is avoiding “biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration.” That applies both ways – to spacecraft returning to Earth and to the risk of human contamination of other planets.