Petrified leaves 110 million years ago have preserved the first example of fossil plant rubber registered, a substance that was thought to dissolve in water before being preserved.
What makes this new ‘gem‘It is unique is that, unlike amber, which is made of fossilized vegetable resin, this substance is made of fossilized vegetable gum.
Its water-soluble properties have meant that scientists have always assumed that the gum would dissolve in water, and they could not have survived enough as to be preserved in fossil plant remains. Since this fossilized gum resembles amber so much, it is believed that there may be many other amber substances in fossil plants, misinterpreted without chemical confirmation.
Plants produce fluids such as resins and gums, which have different functions within the plant. Resins are a response to wounds and act as a defense against diseases and insects. The gums are involved in food storage, structural support and wound sealing. Although the gums and resins are alike, they are chemically different and it is known that the gums dissolve in water. Previously, only fossilized plant resins, known asor amber
The student of the University of Portsmouth Emily Roberts He made the discovery by examining the fossilized leaves of the Welwitschiophyllum plant, found in the Crato Formation in Brazil. Emily noticed thin amber bands enclosed within some of the fossilized leaves she was studying.
“This new discovery overrides the basic assumption that vegetable gums cannot be preserved in the fossil record. It has opened our eyes to the fact that other plant chemicals can also be preserved: we can no longer make assumptions, “he said.
This study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, It also revealed another significant finding: the Welwitschiophyllum plant is considered related to one of the oldest and most enigmatic plants that exist. Surprisingly, a considerate relative of this plant is still growing today. Welwitschia is the only survivor of this lineage and is now alone in the Namib Desert in Namibia and southern Angola.