Rocks yield clues to flower origins

10:06am, April 17, 2001

Organic chemicals trapped in rocks for more than 240 million years may now provide a clue to a biological riddle that has stood since the 19th century: Where did flowers come from?

Flowering plants suddenly appeared in the fossil record about 130 million years ago. The absence of progenitors in that record posed a puzzle that Charles Darwin referred to as "an abominable mystery." Now, geochemist J. Michael Moldowan of Stanford University and his coworkers say they've found a chemical signature of flowering plants in ancient fossil-bearing rocks.

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