A hidden cradle of plant evolution in Permian tropical lowlands

Science. 2018 Dec 21;362(6421):1414-1416. doi: 10.1126/science.aau4061.


The latitudinal biodiversity gradient today has deep roots in the evolutionary history of Earth's biota over geologic time. In the marine realm, earliest fossil occurrences at low latitudes reveal a tropical cradle for many animal groups. However, the terrestrial fossil record-especially from drier environments that are thought to drive evolutionary innovation-is sparse. We present mixed plant-fossil assemblages from Permian equatorial lowlands in present-day Jordan that harbor precocious records of three major seed-plant lineages that all became dominant during the Mesozoic, including the oldest representative of any living conifer family. These finds offer a glimpse of the early evolutionary origins of modern plant groups in disturbance-prone tropical habitats that are usually hidden from observation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Fossils*
  • Jordan
  • Tracheophyta*