UM researcher and American colleagues discover new genus of plants

Spring is just around the corner, and plants will be coming back to life in the slowly warming soil.

But some researchers have just brought fossil seeds ‘back to life.’ They won’t actually grow, but seeds of a newly discovered fossil plant are so exquisitely fossilized that researchers have been able to study them at a cellular level of detail, despite the fact that they are 136 million years old.

UM biologist Az Klymiuk along with colleagues Gar Rothwell and Ruth Stockey of Oregon State University have discovered a new genus of ancient plants that is unlike any other plant on Earth, living or extinct. The new fossil may represent an entirely new order of plants, and is a gymnospermous or non-flowering plant from the renowned Apple Bay fossil site on northern Vancouver Island. The new plant has been named Xadzigacalix quatsinoensis, as a nod to Kwak̓wala-speaking First Nations (xa̱dziga = plant resin, calix = Latin for chalice, since the seeds are held within a fruit-like ‘cup’). The Apple Bay site is within traditional and unceded territory of the Quatsino First Nation, and over the past two decades has emerged as one of the most important fossil plant localities in the world.

“Apple Bay is incredible – the fossil plants there are preserved in three dimensions, and a cellular level of detail. But more importantly, this flora gives us our best window into what the world looked like before the rise of flowering plants,” says Klymiuk.

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