Fossils of Oldest Plants Found

BUENOS AIRES, Oct. 13 (UPI) — Fossils of the earliest land plants have been discovered in Argentina, putting back by 10 million years the date when plants colonized land, researchers say.

Researchers from the Argentine Institute of Snow, Ice and Environmental Research discovered the fossils in sediments in the Central Andean Basin of northwest Argentina, the BBC reported Wednesday.

The fossils, dating from between 471 million and 473 million years ago, are from liverworts, very simple plants that lack stems or roots that are likely the ancestors of all land plants, the researchers say.

Fossils of spores from five different types of liverwort, a primitive kind of plant believed to have evolved from freshwater green algae, were found, the research leader said.

“Spores of liverworts are very simple and are called cryptospores,” Claudia Rubinstein of the institute’s department of paleontology told the BBC. “The cryptospores that we describe are the earliest to date.”

The previous record holder of the earliest known land plants were small liverwort cryptospores found in Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic, dated at 461 million to 463 million years old, the BBC said.

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