Scientists have found in rocks from northern China what may be the oldest fossils of a green plant ever found: tiny seaweed that carpeted areas of the seafloor 1bn years ago and were part of a primordial revolution among life on Earth. Researchers on Monday said the plant, called Proterocladus antiquus , was about the size of a rice grain and boasted numerous thin branches, thriving in shallow water while attached to the seafloor with a root-like structure. It may seem small, but Proterocladus - a form of green algae - was one of the largest organisms of its time, sharing the seas mainly with bacteria and other microbes. It engaged in photosynthesis, transforming energy from sunlight into chemical energy and producing oxygen. The first land plants, thought to be descendents of green seaweeds, appeared about m years ago.
Xiao said the fossils represent the oldest green seaweed ever found.
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The next oldest fossil of green seaweed was found in rock thought to be about million years old. The scientists say the seaweed once lived in an ocean that was not very deep.
Many millions of years later, the dirt was lifted out of the ocean and became the dry land where the examples were collected.
But the first land plants, believed to be ancestors of green seaweeds, did not appear until about million years ago. The Virginia Tech researchers believe that land plants - including trees, grasses food crops and others - all developed from green seaweeds that lived in the ocean.
Then, over millions of years, the seaweed plants moved out of the water and adapted to life on land. The history of how green plants developed is a subject of debate. Proterocladus is believed to be closely related to a modern seaweed, widely eaten by humans today. It is called sea lettuce. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page. They had an ancestor that apparently acquired the photosynthesis cellular apparatus from a type of bacterium called cyanobacterium.
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This ancestor of all green plants gave rise to two major branches, one of them includes some aquatic plants and all land plants while the other - the group to which Proterocladus belongs - is made up exclusively of aquatic plants.
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