PerspectivePaleontology

How land plant life cycles first evolved

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1538-1539
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan2923

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Summary

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first in a series of papers on the biota of a 407-million-year-old hot spring system that opened a window onto early life on land (1). The site near the village of Rhynie in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is exceptional because fossilization occurred in microcrystalline silica (chert), preserving organisms to the cellular level and shedding light on community structure and interactions among the plants, arthropods, fungi, algae, and cyanobacteria. Recent research on these remarkable fossils and advances in understanding plant developmental genetics are beginning to reveal how major changes in life cycle had an early influence on the direction of plant evolution.