Seed germination usually occurs after a seed has dropped into the ground, but several embryonic stems emerging from ancient pine cones were caught in a rare botanical feat known as precocious germination, or vivisection, in which the fruit The seeds germinate before they are released.
“I find it fascinating that the seeds in this little pine cone can begin to germinate inside the cone and germinate before being eroded into resin.”
Premature germination in pine cones is so rare that since 1965 only one naturally occurring example of the condition has been described in the scientific literature, Poiner said in the statement.
When seeds germinate inside plants, it’s in things like fruit—think of that baby pepper you sometimes see when you crack open a bell pepper—but it’s rare in gymnosperms such as conifers. Those that produce “naked” or non-venomous seeds.
The fossil pine cone is from an extinct species of pine tree called Pinus sembrifolia. Preserved in Baltic amber, clusters of needles are visible, some in bundles of five.
Poiner said that depending on their condition, some stem growth, if not most, occurred after the pine cones were exposed to sticky tree resin. The research was published last week in the journal Historical Biology.
Poiner has worked on amber fossils for decades, first discovering in a 1982 study that amber can preserve intracellular structures in an organism trapped inside. Their work inspired the fictional science in “Jurassic Park” book and film franchise, where DNA is extracted from dinosaur blood inside a mosquito trapped in amber to recreate prehistoric creatures.
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