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Fossil Friday: Florigerminis, Another Failed Candidate for a Jurassic Flowering Plant

Photo: Florigerminis jurassica, NIGPAS 2022, fair use.

Just a few weeks ago (Bechly 2022), I discussed Darwin’s abominable mystery and the consistently failed claims for Jurassic flowering plants (Sokoloff et al. 2019Bateman 2020). I also showed that experts think a dubious new candidate, Dilcherifructus mexicana from the Middle Jurassic of Mexico (Wang 2021) was misidentified and rather represents a gymnosperm.

In January this year, the same author presented with colleagues a new candidate with Florigerminis jurassica from the Jurassic of China (Cui et al. 2022). It was again published in a somewhat obscure journal and suffers from the very same problems as the Dilcherifructus case. The press release announced the discovery as “world’s earliest fossil record of flower buds” (NIGPAS 2022), and other media reports uncritically agreed (e.g., Baker 2022) and predictably celebrated the find as possible answer to Darwin’s abominable mystery (Cassella 2022).

A Botanist and His Colleagues

Kew Garden botanist Professor Richard Buggs asked colleagues on Twitter what they think about Florigerminis and its affinities. Here is what they said:

So, it is not a Jurassic angiosperm at all, but just another gymnosperm of the gnetopsid clade. There is clearly a pattern with these misidentifications, guided by wishful thinking. Some western paleobotanists even unofficially refer to the plethora of alleged Jurassic angiosperms from China as “Wangiosperms,” as in “Oh, it’s another Wangiosperm!”. It may be politically incorrect and a bit unkind perhaps, but expresses something of the frustration they feel. So, you are in good company if you are as skeptical about these claims as I am myself.