The first daisies may have flourished while dinosaurs still walked the Earth, researchers reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Evidence from tiny grains of fossilized pollen suggests that the Asteraceae flower family, which includes daisies, chrysanthemums and sunflowers, is 20 million years older than previously suspected, writes Jonathan Tilley for HortWeek.
Sandwiched in sediments alongside dinosaur fossils, the grains turned up at a site on the eastern Antarctic Peninsula. The fossils date to around 76 to 66 million years ago, putting them at the end of the Cretaceous Period — when the area would have been covered in forests populated by dinosaurs and other creatures. Previous estimates suggested that the family arose in Patagonia around 47.5 million years ago, writes Anna Salleh for ABC Science, and scientists used to think that flowering plants only evolved around 130 million years ago.
Researchers were able to match the shape of the newly-identified grains to previously discovered pollen samples in Australia and New Zealand, too. This suggests that daisies' earliest ancestors existed a whopping 80 million years ago.
Though dinosaurs started to go extinct around 65 million years ago, they still would have had a few million years to stop and smell the ancient daisies. Based on these fossils, some of the lizards may have even met their end in the flowers.