The detail on the tiny flowers is amazing. Perfectly preserved in amber, seven complete specimens of new flowers were identified by researchers, who estimated the blooms are from 100 million years ago.
Discovered in Myanmar, the flowers were likely dislodged from a tree by a Triceratops or Tyrannosaurus rex passing through the jungle, say researchers from Oregon State University who made the discovery. The flowers range from only 3.4 to 5 millimeters, so small they had to be studied under a microscope.
“The amber preserved the floral parts so well that they look like they were just picked from the garden,” George Poinar Jr., professor emeritus in Oregon State University’s College of Science, said in a statement.
“Dinosaurs may have knocked the branches that dropped the flowers into resin deposits on the bark of an araucaria tree, which is thought to have produced the resin that fossilized into the amber. Araucaria trees are related to kauri pines found today in New Zealand and Australia, and kauri pines produce a special resin that resists weathering.”
The researchers named their discovery Tropidogyne pentaptera for the Greek words for five (penta) and wing (pteron). The flowers are part of the Cunoniaceae family, which are found in Australia and Papua-New Guinea. They resemble a plant known as the Christmas bush, which has five petals that turn a red-pink color in late December.
The researchers believe that the flowers were likely encased in amber some time before the supercontinent of Gondwanaland broke up, which would explain how a species found in Myanmar could be related to modern-day flowers in Australia.
“Probably the amber site in Myanmar was part of Greater India that separated from the Southern Hemisphere, the supercontinent Gondwanaland, and drifted to southern Asia,” Poinar said.
“Malaysia, including Burma [now Myanmar], was formed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras by subduction of terranes that successfully separated and then moved northward by continental drift.”