RESOURCES: Trees That Time Forgot

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Science  16 Aug 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5584, pp. 1099
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5584.1099c

The plants known as cycads belong to an ancient, once-thriving lineage that has fallen on hard times. Although far outnumbered today by flowering plants and limited to warm climates, cycads intrigue evolutionary biologists because they are the closest relatives of the group that includes all other seed-producing plants. Meet all 250-odd extant cycad species at the Cycad Pages, hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia.

Dinosaurs munched on the leaves of these palm look-alikes, whose fossils date back more than 250 million years. Introductory pages describe their evolutionary history and taxonomy and explore their close partnership with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The site's World List of Cycads, a lush compendium of all named species, provides full descriptions, details of natural history, range maps, key references, and info on conservation status. With their slow growth, limited range, and often specialized habitat requirements, cycads are particularly vulnerable to extinction.

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