PerspectiveEvolution

Living Fossil Younger than Thought

Science  11 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6057, pp. 766-767
DOI: 10.1126/science.1214649

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Summary

The fossil records of some living organisms show that they were once more abundant and widespread than today. These organisms are sometimes called “living fossils,” especially when their morphology closely resembles that of their fossils. Classic examples are coelacanths, the Ginkgo tree, and cycads (see the figure). On page 796 of this issue, Nagalingum et al. (1) show that today's cycads evolved from a small number of ancestor species that lived no more than around 12 million years ago.