Evolution of Leaves in Ferns

Within the trendy sense, ferns are vegetation with frond-like leaves, and underground creeping stems. The earliest ferns to seem on Earth developed through the Early Devonian (419–393 million years in the past) and didn’t possess these acquainted options. As a substitute, most of those “ferns” have been leafless with a variety of branching patterns and stems that have been photosynthetic. Thankfully, they exhibit inside anatomy that enables researchers to attach these fossil vegetation to the ferns.

So when do ferns evolve leaves?

By the Late Devonian (383–359 million years in the past), most land plant lineages had developed leaves, however the evolution of leaves in ferns stays unclear.

In 2015, Wang et al. recognized a fern-like plant, Shougangia bella, from the Late Devonian that has very small leaves on the upper-most parts of its branches. The plant most likely grew equally to trendy ferns, creeping alongside the bottom, however this historical plant additionally had upright stems. The decrease parts of those stems lacked leaves, however the upper-most parts exhibit tiny, flattened leaves. With leaves about 4mm lengthy, this plant wouldn’t have appeared very leafy from a distance, however evolutionarily, this plant marks the origins of leaves in ferns on Earth.

This fossil plant means that fern-like vegetation, together with different plant lineages, had independently developed leaves by the Late Devonian, probably coinciding with quickly declining ranges of CO2 within the ambiance.

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