Glossopteris is a fossil plant which helped to change the way we understand the Earth.
When the first fossils of Glossopteris were found in the Nineteenth Century, it was assumed to be a fern (its name means ‘tongue-fern’, given for its long, tongue-shaped leaves). Further finds revealed that it was actually a seed plant with pollen-bearing organs, and that it grew as a small tree with a woody trunk.
Leaves of Glossopteris have been found in rocks of Permian age (roughly 300 to 250 million years ago) in India, Australia, South Africa, South America, Africa and Antarctica. Their distribution, and that of other fossil species, was one of the lines of evidence which were gathered by Alfred Wegener, to support his theory of ‘continental drift’, the pre-cursor to modern plate tectonics. Wegener argued that that the continents of the Southern Hemisphere had once been joined together (in a continent known as Gondwana), and had drifted apart. Wegener’s ideas were not widely accepted when proposed in the 1910s and it was not until five decades later that the idea of drifting continents became mainstream.
G is for…. Was written by guest blogger paleobotanist and Science communicator Susannah Lydon.
If you would like to produce a paleobotanical blog for fossilplants.co.uk please contact me at email@example.com or @fossilplants on Twitter.