You can't even bite it.  A mysterious fossilized fruit has captured the world's attention

The story begins in the 1970s, when scientists found seeds of very strange plants in rocks near an Indian village. Nagpur Institute of Science published in 1972 Ancient Science Magazine An article in which seeds that are difficult to identify are named Enigmocarbon. However, it is still not known to which group of plants they belong.

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Over the following decades, mysterious ancient botanical relics were still found in the same part of India. The case might have remained unsolved if not for Stephen Manchester of the Florida Museum of Natural History. CT scans were used to examine the fossilized remains of the mysterious fruit.

Paleontologist Dashrath Kapgate collected additional specimens near the site where fossils were first discovered in the 1970s / photo. Stephen Manchester

Fossilized fruit has been one of the biggest mysteries for paleobotanists since the 1970s

In the pages International Journal of Plant Sciences A work has appeared explaining the mysterious origin of the seeds. It turns out that these fossils do not represent any seeds, but rather are a wooden inner seed covering, which is the outer woody covering produced by some plants. We can encounter endocarp when eating peaches or cherries. It is also found in dates and pistachios.

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Everything was revealed through CT scans, examining very small fossil specimens. The Manchester team then tried to find a group of plants that could have produced such coatings millions of years ago. Pentacarps endocarps are produced by the family marsupial – Plasmids. The most famous plant of this group is the frankincense tree (Boswellia).

Carter Incense/Source: Scott ZonaWikimedia Commons, CCP 2.0

A very important element of fossil research has been determining their ages. For decades, they have been found in layers of sediment sandwiched between two complexes of basalt rocks, which were the result of large magma episodes at the turn of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic (about 60-70 million years ago).

At that time, the Indian subcontinent was not yet part of what is now known as Asia. It was located in the Southern Hemisphere, and the movement of tectonic plates was pushing it increasingly north. The aforementioned volcanic eruptions occurred over an area twice the size of Poland. It continued with intermittent periods for a million years and completely destroyed the vegetation that covered India at that time.

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As reported by Stephen Manchester in Statement from the Florida Museum of Natural History, endocarp plasmid fossils have been preserved from periods of silence between successive explosions. Various lakes were formed on the basalt surfaces, into which rivers flowed carrying sediments, including plant remains. The rock formation formed by these deposits is called Intertrappean Beds, loosely translated as “intertrap layers.”

Image of fossils during 3D scanning/imaging. Stephen Manchester

This formation occurs exactly at the moment of the asteroid impact and the end of the Cretaceous period. It is an extremely valuable subject of research because in these rocks the remains of animals that survived the great extinction, such as crocodiles, fish, turtles and amphibians, have also been found. When it comes to plant fossils, most of the sheaths found have so far only been known from rocks formed after an asteroid impact. The interior of the Indian specimens comes from ancient deposits when dinosaurs lived their “last minutes” on Earth.

Endocarp from plasmids as valuable paleobotanical evidence

This is an important discovery for paleobotany. Well, we discovered that a rather famous and common plant family is older than we thought. Furthermore, by finding saffronoid remains in rocks from the Indian subcontinent, which was located in the Southern Hemisphere at the end of the Cretaceous period, scientists may suggest that marsupial developed in this part of the world.

Continent system in the early Cretaceous. India is still in the southern hemisphere / Source: Sammy2012, Wikimedia Commons, CCP-SA 4.0

However, this theory is contradicted by discoveries in more recent deposits from 50 million years ago (Paleogene). Ancient botanical memorabilia has been found in Europe and North America marsupial. However, later, when the climate began to cool from the Eocene epoch, the occurrence of swarms was restricted to areas south of the equator only and has remained so to this day.

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Therefore, the question of the origin of these unusual plants remains unknown, but we have managed to solve the mystery of the mysterious “seeds” coming from India. We are once again convinced that re-analysis of previously collected fossils is a very good idea and can bring a lot of amazing information.

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