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Cycads not ‘living fossils’

Modern members of the plant group date back a mere 12 million years

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10:17am, October 21, 2011

Once thought to be the last remaining members of a plant lineage that went extinct with the dinosaurs, modern-day cycads are now believed to have diverged from a more recent common ancestor.

Although cycad populations suffered major losses about 65 million years ago when dinosaurs — their once primary dispersal agents — went extinct, the plants later experienced a renaissance due to a global climate shift, a new study suggests. Living cycads diverged from an ancestral species that flourished around 12 million years ago, not from older dinosaur-era relatives, an international team of researchers reports online October 20 in Science.

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