Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Evolution News - Another 'Non-Existent' Transitional Form

Reconstruction of the crown of Paratingia wuhaia sp. nov
'Pompeii of prehistoric plants' unlocks evolutionary secret - study

The debunking of Creationist dogma, by scientists who merely need to uncover the evidence to do so, continues unabated.

Today we have news of a spectacular collection of primitive plants discovered preserved beneath layers of volcanic ash, like the remains at Pompeii. These were discovered in China at Wuda, Inner Mongolia. The ash forms a layer 66cm thick and covered plants growing in a bog, preserving them in microscopic detail. Among those preserved as a species of tree fern bearing primitive, cone-like flowers, the beginnings of the flowering plants that dominate today.

The research team was led by Professor Jun Wang, Professor of Palaeobotany at Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology and included scientists from the University of Birmingham, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang Normal University, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, the Centre of Palaeobiodiversity, Plzeň, Czech Republic, the University of Vienna, Indiana Geological and Water Survey, USA and Indiana University, USA.

From the Birmingham University Press release:

Spectacular fossil plants preserved within a volcanic ash fall in China have shed light on an evolutionary race 300 million years ago, which was eventually won by the seed-bearing plants that dominate so much of the Earth today.


New research into fossils found at the ‘Pompeii of prehistoric plants’, in Wuda, Inner Mongolia, reveals that the plants, called Noeggerathiales, were highly-evolved members of the lineage from which came seed plants.

Noeggerathiales were important peat-forming plants that lived around 325 to 251 million years ago. Understanding their relationships to other plant groups has been limited by poorly preserved examples until now.

The fossils found in China have allowed experts to work out that Noeggerathiales are more closely related to seed plants than to other fern groups.

Noeggerathiales were recognized as early as the 1930s, but scientists have treated them as a ‘taxonomic football’, endlessly kicked around without anyone identifying their place in the Story of Life.

The spectacular fossil plants found in China are becoming renowned as the plant equivalent of Pompeii. Thanks to this slice of life preserved in volcanic ash, we were able to reconstruct a new species of Noeggerathiales that finally settles the group’s affinity and evolutionary importance.

The fate of the Noeggerathiales is a stark reminder of what can happen when even very advanced life forms are faced with rapid environmental change.

Dr. Jason Hilton, Co-author
Reader in Palaeobiology
Insitute of Forest Research
University of Birmingham
No longer considered an evolutionary dead-end, they are now recognized as advanced tree-ferns that evolved complex cone-like structures from modified leaves. Despite their sophistication, Noeggerathiales fell victim to the profound environmental and climate changes of 251 million years ago that destroyed swamp ecosystems globally.

Co-author Dr. Jason Hilton, Reader in Palaeobiology at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Forest Research, commented: “Noeggerathiales were recognized as early as the 1930s, but scientists have treated them as a ‘taxonomic football’, endlessly kicked around without anyone identifying their place in the Story of Life. “The spectacular fossil plants found in China are becoming renowned as the plant equivalent of Pompeii. Thanks to this slice of life preserved in volcanic ash, we were able to reconstruct a new species of Noeggerathiales that finally settles the group’s affinity and evolutionary importance.

[...]

“The fate of the Noeggerathiales is a stark reminder of what can happen when even very advanced life forms are faced with rapid environmental change.”

Many specimens were identified in excavations in 2006-2007 when a few leaves were visible on the surface of the ash. It looked they might be connected to each other and a stem below - we revealed the crown on site, but then extracted the specimens complete to take them back to the lab.

It has taken many years to study these fully and the additional specimens we have found more recently. The complete trees are the most impressive fossil plants I have seen and because of our careful work they are also some of the most important to science.

Professor Jun Wang, Lead author
Professor of Palaeobotany
Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology
The researchers studied complete Noeggerathiales preserved in a bed of volcanic ash 66 cm thick formed 298 million years ago, smothering all the plants growing in a nearby swamp.

The ash stopped the fossils from rotting or being consumed, and preserved many complete individuals in microscopic detail.

Lead-Author Jun Wang, Professor of Palaeobotany at Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, commented: “Many specimens were identified in excavations in 2006-2007 when a few leaves were visible on the surface of the ash. It looked they might be connected to each other and a stem below - we revealed the crown on site, but then extracted the specimens complete to take them back to the lab.

“It has taken many years to study these fully and the additional specimens we have found more recently. The complete trees are the most impressive fossil plants I have seen and because of our careful work they are also some of the most important to science.”

The researchers also deduced that that the ancestral lineage from which seed plants evolved diversified alongside the earliest seed plant radiation during the Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian periods, and did not rapidly die out as previously thought.
The research findings are published open access today in PNAS:

Significance


There were two heterosporous lignophyte lineages of which only one, the seed plants, survived the Permian–Triassic mass extinction. Based on exceptionally complete fossil trees from a 300-My-old volcanic ash, the enigmatic Noeggerathiales are now recognized as belonging to the other lineage. They diversified alongside the primary seed plant radiation and constitute seed plants’ closest relatives. Noeggerathiales are reconstructed as members of a plexus of free-sporing woody plants called progymnosperms, extending their age range by 60 My. Following the origin of seed plants, progymnosperms were previously thought to have become gradually less abundant before dying out in Carboniferous. We show they diversified and evolved complex morphologies including cone-like structures from modified leaves before going extinct at the Permian–Triassic extinction.

Abstract


Noeggerathiales are enigmatic plants that existed during Carboniferous and Permian times, ∼323 to 252 Mya. Although their morphology, diversity, and distribution are well known, their systematic affinity remained enigmatic because their anatomy was unknown. Here, we report from a 298-My-old volcanic ash deposit, an in situ, complete, anatomically preserved noeggerathialean. The plant resolves the group’s affinity and places it in a key evolutionary position within the seed plant sister group. Paratingia wuhaia sp. nov. is a small tree producing gymnospermous wood with a crown of pinnate, compound megaphyllous leaves and fertile shoots each with Ω-shaped vascular bundles. The heterosporous (containing both microspores and megaspores), bisporangiate fertile shoots appear cylindrical and cone-like, but their bilateral vasculature demonstrates that they are complex, three-dimensional sporophylls, representing leaf homologs that are unique to Noeggerathiales. The combination of heterospory and gymnospermous wood confirms that Paratingia, and thus the Noeggerathiales, are progymnosperms. Progymnosperms constitute the seed plant stem group, and Paratingia extends their range 60 My, to the end of the Permian. Cladistic analysis resolves the position of the Noeggerathiales as the most derived members of a heterosporous progymnosperm clade that are the seed plant sister group, altering our understanding of the relationships within the seed plant stem lineage and the transition from pteridophytic spore-based reproduction to the seed. Permian Noeggerathiales show that the heterosporous progymnosperm sister group to seed plants diversified alongside the primary radiation of seed plants for ∼110 My, independently evolving sophisticated cone-like fertile organs from modified leaves.

And... once again we have one of those transitional species that creationist frauds tell their scientifically illiterate dupes don't exist and that their absence from the fossil record proves Darwin was wrong and predicted the downfall of his own theory by implying that it depended on the discovery of transitional forms for it's validity.

And these discoveries are made with such regularity that they could be the basis of an entire book. The only problem with that is that, as every evolutionary biologist understands, every fossil is transitional between the previous generation and the next because evolution is a process, not an event.

Where does one colour end and the next start?

As species evolve over time, there is no one time or place where one species turns into another and never a point where it is not the same species as its parents.

Evolution is a PROCESS not an event!

All fossils are transitional!








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