Flowering plants may have evolved 250 million years ago, more than 100 million years earlier than the oldest fossilised flowers so far found.
Today, flowering plants — known as angiosperms — are the most diverse group of land plants. The oldest angiosperm fossils so far found are 135 million years old, and many researchers believe this is when the group originated. The fossil record suggests the group then became diverse by 130 million years ago.
But how flowering plants became highly diverse so shortly after their emergence has long perplexed researchers, including Charles Darwin. The fossil record and genetics offer conflicting evidence, with the latter pointing to a much older origin.
To take another look, Daniele Silvestro at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and his team analysed more than 15,000 fossils from around 200 different angiosperm families to create a more accurate timeline….
The researchers found that their statistical analysis of the fossil record provides strong evidence that the oldest angiosperm may have appeared perhaps as early as 250 million years ago, during the very end of the Permian period — much earlier than the oldest known angiosperm fossil.
That is because if a number of related fossils all appear between 135 and 130 million years ago, they must have evolved from a much earlier common ancestor not present in the fossil record. [Emphasis added.]
If this accurately reflects the argument in the primary research paper, it provides a beautiful example of common descent as axiomatically true.