Flowering plants evolved from extinct plants related to conifers, ginkgos, cycads, and seed ferns. The oldest known fossils from flowering plants are pollen grains. These are small, robust and numerous and therefore fossilize more easily than leaves and flowers.
An uninterrupted sequence of fossilized pollen from flowers begins in the Early Cretaceous, approximately 140 million years ago, and it is generally assumed that flowering plants first evolved around that time.
But the present study documents flowering plant-like pollen that is 100 million years older, implying that flowering plants may have originated in the Early Triassic (between 252 to 247 million years ago) or even earlier.
Peter Hochuli and Susanne Feist-Burkhardt from Paleontological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, studied two drilling cores from Weiach and Leuggern, northern Switzerland, and found pollen grains that resemble fossil pollen from the earliest known flowering plants.
With Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy, they obtained high-resolution images across three dimensions of six different types of pollen.
The samples from the present study were found 3000 km south of the previous site.
--ANI (Posted on 02-10-2013)