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Kajanthus lusitanicus, a new species of Portuguese flower from the Cretaceous


The fossil of a new genus and species of flower was identified by the field work of the CretaCarbo project, funded by FCT and coordinated by researcher Luís Duarte, from the University of Coimbra. The fossil dates from the Cretaceous period, between 146 and 100 million years ago, and is very similar to a plant that until now was thought to exist only in China

In collaboration with Else Marie Friis, from the Stockholm Museum of Natural History, paleobotanists Mário Miguel Mendes and João Pais from the Research Center for Geological Science and Engineering (CICEGe) at the Faculty of Science and Technology, New University of Lisbon (FCT-UNL) have identified, for the first time in Europe, a fossil of an angiosperm flower - a group of plants whose main characteristic is the presence of fruit and flower.

Belonging to the Larizabalaceae family and to the Ranunculales order, the plant is very similar to another currently endemic in China, Sinofranchetia chinensis. The fossil of the Portuguese flower from the Lower Cretaceous found in a deposit in the Leiria region corresponds to a new genus and species now described in an article published in the journal Grana.

According to Luís Duarte, the find is "an excellent contribution to the advancement of Paleobotany in Portugal as well as to the knowledge of the evolution of Angiosperms in the world". The name given to it - Kajanthus lusitanicus- pays homage to the Danish paleobotanist Kaj Raunsgaard Pedersen from Aahrus University, and identifies the region of the Globe where it was discovered - lusithanicus (Portugal).

Some of the oldest and best preserved early angiosperms are found in the Middle Cretaceous of western Portugal. The CretaCarbo project aims to study the deposits of this period in the western Portuguese margin, contributing to the understanding of the rapid and intense global changes - oceanographic and environmental - that deeply affected ecosystems, including terrestrial plants, in particular the early evolution and expansion of angiosperms.