A fossil of a species of plant already extinct was found in the Carboniferous Basin of the Douro, in Gondomar, by palaeontologist and researcher Pedro Correia, from the Institute of Earth Sciences (ICT), based at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP).
Named Iberisetum wegeneri, in honour of the German geologist and meteorologist Alfred Wegener, the fossil of a new group of plants with 300 million years and unique morphological characteristics “represents a new genus and a new species of an extinct group of primitive articulate plants, an ancestral group distant from the current Equisetum”, explained to Notícias U.Porto, the PhD researcher in Geosciences by FCUP.
According to Pedro Correia, the foliar sheaths (part that attaches to the stem) of this plant functioned as a kind of “solar panels”, being faced towards the sun in order to maximise the capture of light for photosynthesis. "This functional morphology is the result of an evolutionary adaptation of endemic plants to the climatic and ecological conditions restricted to intramountain environments of Douro Basin", adds the palaeontologist.
The finding, published recently in the journal Historical Biology, thus proves that the intramountain environments of the Douro basin had a very unique climate that favoured the appearance of species that are endemic to that place.
This is not a first for Pedro Correia in finding fossils of new species of plants and insects unknown to Science. The Portuguese palaeontologist had already published last year the finding of another fossil of a species of horsetail, Annularia paisii, which enabled to understand the relationship between plants and insects was about 300 million years ago.
In 2019, the researcher found, together with his team, another species of fossil plant - named Annularia noronhai, in honour of the geologist and former professor at FCUP, Fernando Noronha - in the carboniferous outcrops of São Pedro da Cova.
Just last year, the FCUP researcher was also in the news for publishing a study in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports (Nature Research), in which he revealed new details about the supercontinent Pangea, which gave rise to Earth as we know it today.