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A hidden cradle of plant evolution in Permian tropical lowlands

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Science  21 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6421, pp. 1414-1416
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau4061

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Late Permian seed-plant evolution

The great evolutionary expansion of seed plants took place in the Mesozoic era, which began after the Permian mass extinction 252 million years ago. Blomenkemper et al. report the discovery of seed-plant fossils from Late Permian (252-million- to 260-million-year-old) deposits on the margins of the Dead Sea in Jordan. This area represents an equatorial habitat with pronounced dry seasons. These fossils, which include the earliest records of conifers, push back the ages of several important seed-plant lineages. Some of these lineages appear to span the mass extinction event at the end of the Permian, which suggests that the communities they supported may have been more stable than expected over this transition. Thus, early evolutionary innovations can occur in drought-prone tropical habitats—which rarely offer the conditions needed for fossil preservation.

Science, this issue p. 1414

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