This places the early evolution of daisies at the time of dinosaurs. The results were published this week in the online Early Edition of PNAS.
Using the Antarctic findings, the team has also now been able to unambiguously place a number of other Cretaceous fossilised pollen grains from New Zealand in the Asteraceae family, implying that the Cretaceous distribution of this family was relatively broad.
The researchers saw strong morphological similarities between these fossil pollen grains and those produced by some members of the Asteraceae family today.
The Asteraceae are the single most diverse family of flowering plants, with about 23,000 species, including garden favourites such as daisies, sunflowers and chrysanthemums, right through to lettuce and artichokes.
The fossil analysed had remained buried in deposits from the Late Cretaceous period of Antarctica for more than 65 million years and was found amongst extinct groups such as dinosaurs and Ammonites. This, and other analyses, reveal the Asteraceae family to be about 80 million years old and these pollen grains to be this family’s oldest fossils ever discovered.