Virginia Tech paleontologists have made a breakthrough in China: 1 billion-year-old microfossil of green seaweeds that might be related to the ancestor of the earliest land plants and trees that first grew 450 million years ago.
The micro-fossil seaweeds—a form of algae called Proterocladus antiquus—are barely visible to the naked eyes at 2 millimeters in length.
Prof. Shuhai Xiao stated the fossils are the oldest green seaweeds ever discovered. They had been imprinted in rock taken from an area of dry land—previously ocean—near the town of Dalian in the Liaoning region of northern China. Previously, the earliest possible fossil report of green seaweeds had been found in rock dated at virtually 800 million years old.
Shuhai stated the current speculation is that land plants—the trees, grasses, food crops, bushes, even kudzu—grew from green seaweeds, which had been aquatic plants.
Via geological time — millions of years—they shifted out of the water and became adapted to and thrived on dry land, their new natural setting.
However, Xiao added the sign that not all geobiologists are on the same page—that discussions on the origins of green crops remain debated. “Not everyone agrees with us; some scientists believe that green plants began in rivers and lakes, and then captured the ocean and land later,” added Xiao, a member of the Virginia Tech Global Change Center.