EARTH: Amber-encased specimen could be oldest known grass

May 14, 2015

Alexandria, VA - The evolutionary age of grass has been hotly contested. Scientists have previously dated the earliest grasses to 55 million years ago; after the dinosaurs went extinct. Now, a new 100-million-year-old specimen of amber from Myanmar potentially pushes back grass evolution to the Late Cretaceous.

Scientists from the Oregon State University who studied the amber believe they identified "spikelet" - grass in its flowering state - and a cluster of fossilized ergot, a major ingredient in LSD. While their conclusions are intriguing, and have implications for the plant and fungi evolutionary trees, some challenge the methods used. Since amber specimens can be unique, scientists use noninvasive methods, and some argue these tests result in less rigorous conclusions. Find out if this amber specimen means dinos were potentially dining on hallucinogens and grass in the June Issue of EARTH Magazine: http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/amber-encased-plant-could-be-oldest...

EARTH Magazine brings you the science behind the headlines. The June Issue, now available on the digital newsstand (http://www.earthmagazine.org), includes feature stories on how modern anthropology is redefining the story of human evolution, a light-hearted investigation into how the film industry portrays geologists, and how flames are fanning the fallout from Chernobyl.
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Keep up to date with the latest happenings in Earth, energy and environment news with EARTH magazine online at: http://www.earthmagazine.org/. Published by the American Geosciences Institute, EARTH is your source for the science behind the headlines.

The American Geosciences Institute is a nonprofit federation of geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

American Geosciences Institute

Related Amber Articles from Brightsurf:

Palaeontologists describe a unique preservation process analyzing remains found in amber
A team of palaeontologists described two amber pieces found in sites in Teruel (Spain) with remains from vertebrates corresponding to the Early Cretaceous.

Salute the venerable ensign wasp, killing cockroaches for 25 million years
An Oregon State University study has identified four new species of parasitic, cockroach-killing ensign wasps that became encased in tree resin 25 million years ago and were preserved as the resin fossilized into amber.

World's oldest animal sperm found in tiny crustaceans trapped in Myanmar amber
An international collaboration between researchers at Queen Mary University of London and the Chinese Academy of Science in Nanjing has led to the discovery of world's oldest animal sperm inside a tiny crustacean trapped in amber around 100 million years ago in Myanmar.

100-million-year-old amber reveals sexual intercourse of ostracods
Dr. WANG He and Prof. WANG Bo, from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS), and their collaborators presented exceptionally well-preserved ostracods with soft parts (appendages and reproductive organs) from mid-Cretaceous Myanmar amber (~100 million years old), which revealed sexual intercourse of ostracods.

Wide awake: Light pollution keeps magpies and pigeons tossing and turning
La Trobe University and University of Melbourne researchers find light comparable in intensity to street lighting can disrupt the length, structure and intensity of sleep in magpies and pigeons

Amber fossils unlock true color of 99-million-year-old insects
A research team from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) has now unlocked the secrets of true coloration in the 99-million-year-old insects.

Paleontology: Fossil trove sheds light on ancient antipodean ecology
The oldest known animals and plants preserved in amber from Southern Gondwana are reported in Scientific Reports this week.

Beetles changed their diet during the Cretaceous period
Like a snapshot, amber preserves bygone worlds. An international team of paleontologists from the University of Bonn has now described four new beetle species in fossilized tree resin from Myanmar, which belong to the Kateretidae family.

Rare lizard fossil preserved in amber
The tiny forefoot of a lizard of the genus Anolis was trapped in amber about 15 to 20 million years ago.

By gum! Scientists find new 110-million-year-old treasure
A remarkable new treasure has been found by scientists from the University of Portsmouth -- the first fossil plant gum on record.

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