Bumbling through the trees in what would one day be Myanmar, a Tyrannosaurus rex may have accidentally sent seven tiny flowers tumbling to the ground.
There, they fell on some resin-producing tree bark, which then fossilized into beautiful amber, which kept the plants perfectly preserved for the next 100 million years — just waiting for researchers from Oregon to find them.
The flowers are only a tenth of an inch in diameter, and they’re the first complete flowers that have ever been discovered from so long ago, according to a study released this week from Oregon State University.
“The amber preserved the floral parts so well that they look like they were just picked form the garden,” George Poinar Jr, a professor who led the study, said.
They belong to a species of plant that has never been seen before, which Poinar named Tropidogyne pentaptera. “Penta” means “five” in Greek and “pteron” means “wing,” so it’s an appropriate name for the five-petalled flora.
The bark that preserved them is thought to have belonged to an Araucaria tree, a rainforest tree that was an ancestor of today’s pine trees.
Using a microscope, researchers were able to capture incredibly detailed — and beautiful — images of the new plant, which they suspect has ties to another ancient species discovered in Australia.
Though Australia is 4,000 miles and an entire ocean away from Myanmar, the two countries actually used to be connected.
“Probably the amber site in Myanmar was part of Greater India that separated from the southern hemisphere, the supercontinent Gondwanaland, and drifted to southern Asia,” Poinar said. “Malaysia, including Burma, was formed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras by subduction of terranes that successfully separated and then moved northward by continental drift.”
Amber is basically the saran wrap of the ancient world -- having preserved a lot of truly remarkable things throughout the millennia.
In 2016, scientists discovered a chunk of dinosaur tail (along with a cute ancient ant) that had been sealed in amber for 99 million years. They named the feathery creature the tail used to belong to Eva.
Here's a 20-million-year-old lizard:
This is a 49-million-year-old ant which, thanks to amber, will forever have a parasite stuck to its head:
And here's a spider, frozen just as it was starting to eat a wasp for dinner. This guy also happened to be discovered by Poinar. “This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended," he said:
Point being, if you're trying to stay fresh-looking after death, a nice amber bath is probably the way to go.
Next, read about the explorers who just found a perfectly preserved 106-year-old fruitcake in Antarctica. Then, check out the preserved medieval sword recently pulled out of a Polish bog.