Paleontologists in Virginia have reportedly discovered a 1-billion-year-old microfossil of green seaweed that relates to the ancestors of plants 450 million years ago. A form of algae, also known by the name Proterocladus antiquus grows 2 millimetres in length and is the oldest green seaweed ever found, studies suggest.
The findings were carried out by post-doctoral researchers, Shuhai Xiao and Qing Tang from the Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech College of Science, and are published in the latest issue of Nature Ecology & Evolution. The green weed fossils were found in rocks in northern China and are roughly the size of a typical flea, suggest reports. It contributed to the primordial revolution among life on earth.
Xiao told the media that the discovery of the new fossils suggests that green seaweeds were important players in the ocean long before their land-plant descendants moved and took control of dry land. He added that the biosphere was majorly dependant on plants and algae for food and oxygen.
The study shows that green weeds evolved 1 billion years ago, making it about 200-million-year-old. Consequently, this discovery leads the scientists to find out what kind of seaweed supplied food and oxygen to the marine system, he said. The findings that green weeds are the origins of all modern plants, however, remains debated, he added, not everyone agrees with it.
According to the reports, the current hypothesis proved that the modern trees, grasses, food crops, and bushes evolved from green seaweeds, the primitive aquatic plants. After millions of years, these green weeds moved out of the water and adapted to the new environment through geological time. The green weed fossils that have been discovered are related to ancestors of all the modern plants on the Earth today, the study concluded.
The microfossils of the seaweeds were discovered using an electronic microscope at Virginia Tech's campus. In order to see the green weeds clearly with the naked human eye, mineral oil was dripped onto the fossil to create a strong contrast. The seaweeds displayed multiple branches, upright growths, and specialized cells known as akinetes, confirmed reports.
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