- Associated Press - Saturday, July 22, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A plant fossil chipped out of a cliff on the grounds of Park University apparently is up to 306 million years old and belongs to a species previously unknown to science.

The plant genus and species was named Parkvillia northcutti after local amateur paleontologist Tim Northcutt, who was permitted to fossil hunt on the university grounds about 10 miles northwest of Kansas City, Missouri.

“One day, I came across something I didn’t recognize from all the research I’d been doing while collecting for some 20 years,” Northcutt said. “It was so unlike anything I had ever seen, it baffled me.”

A stem or branch of the fossilized plant still has carbon remains of life and pollen organs are visible as small round structures, the Kansas City Star reported (https://bit.ly/2ttdgoA ).

Scott Hageman, the associate dean of the School of Natural, Applied and Social Sciences at Park, said he thought this plant type was probably washed gently from another location and then sealed by sediment.

“Preservation is rarely this good,” he said. “It is carbonized, but it captures incredible detail. The setting right here was just right.”

Hageman, paleobotanist Rudolph Serbet and other colleagues wrote an academic paper about the discovery that was published in the November Review of Paleobotany and Palynology. The fossil is currently being kept at Park University.

“Everyone likes dinosaurs, but these are older,” said Patty Ryberg, assistant professor of Biology at Park. “And if we didn’t have plants, what would happen to the dinosaurs?”


Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

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