This plant 400 million years ago should not have existed

A botanist usually follows certain rules well. Until now, it was believed that since the Fibonacci sequence is present in the structure of many extant plant species, it must have evolved in some of the most ancient plant species. the research he did Researchers from the University of Edinburgh It indicates something completely different.

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The results indicate that the spiral arrangement of leaves common in nature today was not common in the earliest land plants that first appeared on our planet. Ancient plants had a different type of spiral. This contrasts with the ancient theory of the spiral evolution of plant leaves, which suggests that plants evolved along two distinct evolutionary paths. How is this possible? The results have been published in a journal Sciences.

Plants love math

Spirals are common in nature, whether we’re talking about a tornado spiral or a double helix of DNA. Most of them can be described using the famous mathematical Fibonacci sequence. Its graphic interpretation is the so-called golden spiral that forms the basis for many of nature’s most effective and striking patterns.

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Why golden spirals, often called nature’s secret symbol, are so common in plants has baffled scientists for centuries. They closely follow Fibonacci numbers because such a development is simply beneficial for them. This arrangement allows them to make full use of the available light they need to photosynthesize. “In this arrangement, no leaf overlaps the previous one, and here is the so-called golden angle, the value of which is about 137.5 degrees (of course, also based on Fibonacci numbers). Each leaf growing from the meristem is arranged at a golden angle relative to the previous one. We read on the Golden Mathematics blog.

Based on their widespread prevalence, it has long been assumed that Fibonacci spirals were an ancient feature that evolved in the earliest land plants and is firmly entrenched to this day. However, scientists at the University of Edinburgh have refuted this theory by discovering non-Fibonacci spirals in a plant fossil 407 million years ago.

We were able to create a 3D model of a 400 million year old plant that doesn’t fit into a Fibonacci spiral/image. University of Edinburgh

Using digital reconstruction techniques, the researchers created 3D models of the leaf buds of Asteroxylon mackiei, a member of the oldest group of leaf plants. It turns out that the leaves and reproductive structures of this plant were arranged in non-Fibonacci spirals. This changes our understanding of the laws of nature and the meaning of the famous Italian mathematician’s numerical sequence. Ancient leaf mosses (mosses) underwent a very different evolution from today’s major groups of plants, such as ferns, conifers, and flowering plants.

Dr Sandy Hetherington, an evolutionary paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh and project leader, says:

The Asteroxylon mackiei model allows us to explore leaf arrangement in 3D for the first time. The technology of 3D printing fossils from 407 million years ago and holding them in your hand is truly amazing. Our findings provide new insights into the evolution of the Fibonacci spiral in plants.

The researchers will continue their research to show whether other types of spirals than Fibonacci work better or worse, and what is the key in choosing a plant for one of the strategies.

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