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University of Coimbra researcher discovers fossil of new species of conifer

A researcher from the Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences (MARE) of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC) has discovered a new species of conifer attributable to the Cheirolepidiaceae family.

The new species Pseudofrenelopsis zlatkoi was identified in Lower Cretaceous flora of Juncal, in the district of Leiria, and was dedicated to Zlatko Kvaček, former professor at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.

According to Mário Miguel Mendes, a researcher at MARE/UC, this new species is very similar to another olepidiaceae, Pseudofrenelopsis parceramosa, but differs by having a thinner cuticle, expanded nodal areas, and grooved internodes. «Pseudofrenelopsis zlatkoi is characterized by having grooved internodes and its morphology is mirrored in the arrangement of epidermal structures, generally having ridges built by elongated ordinary epidermal cells», he reveals.

«The new species Pseudofrenelopsis zlatkoi belongs to an extinct family of conifers – Cheirolepidiaceae. Frenelopsids are extremely important because, in addition to the pollen they produce, attributable to the genus Classopollis, they provide exact environmental indications, namely the existence of dry and arid environments», says the FCTUC scientist.

This investigation, centered on the study of the Portuguese Cretaceous floras in order to understand the existing floristic composition at the time and, consequently, the paleoclimatic conditions that presided over the radiation and diversification of angiosperms, has been developed in partnership with several international institutions, namely the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm (Sweden), the University of Aarhus (Denmark), Yale University (United States of America) and the National Museum Prague (Czech Republic).

«Our works are fundamentally related to the study of the evolution of angiosperms (flowering plants) and Portugal has a geology with unique characteristics that make it possible to follow the main stages of evolution of the flora, because, apart from some gaps, rocks are represented with a fossil record from the Upper Proterozoic to the present day», concludes Mário Miguel Mendes.

This study was funded by the international institutions involved and its R&D unit, the MARE/ARNET of the University of Coimbra.

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