International research discovers new flowering plants in the Torres Vedras region

It was in Catefica, in the municipality of Torres Vedras, that an international team of scientists discovered a new flora of flowering plants known as angiosperms, fossilized and estimated to date from the Lower Cretaceous, over 100 million years ago.

Mário Mendes, researcher at MARE – Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences, University of Coimbra, and one of the co-authors of the study published in the journal “Fossil Imprint”, told “Green Savers” that, through the combination of electron microscopy of scanning and a “non-destructive X-ray microtomography technique with synchrotron radiation”, it was possible to analyze the plant fossils in detail and identify 67 species of angiosperms.

This work, which involved scientists from the United States, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic and, of course, Portugal, resulted in the description of five new genera and six new species previously unknown to science.

“It is a flora of undeniable beauty and nothing like it had ever been done here in the country,” Mário Mendes points out.

Stem structures and pollen grains of a new species of angiosperm identified in Torres Vedras, the Proencystemon portugallicus. Source: University of Coimbra

The main goal of the research is to understand the relationships between the evolution of the angiosperm flora and “stratigraphic, environmental and climatic modifications in order to characterize paleoenvironment and paleoclimate”.

One of the genera discovered in the excavations at Torres Vedras was named after him proencystemonin honor of Pedro Proença e Cunha, full professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Coimbra, “for the important contributions he has made in the context of Portuguese Cretaceous stratigraphy”, says the researcher.

Angiosperms are a group of plants that includes nearly 230,000 species extant today and that “are essential to sustaining life on Earth,” the foundation said in a statement. But little is known “about the conditions that would have prevailed in the radiation and diversification of this extremely important group of plants that currently dominate terrestrial ecosystems.”

Therefore, Miguel Mendes believes that “Cretaceous vegetation studies are absolutely necessary to understand the initial stages of flowering plant development and to characterize the paleoenvironments and paleoclimates in which they lived.”

For him, “Portugal, globally, is a region that has excellent conditions for studying this subject”.

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