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More than four decades studying the origin of flowers

Published: June 24th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

David Dilcher

David Dilcher

Professor of Paleobotany
Florida Museum of Natural History

A graduate research professor in the department of natural sciences, David Dilcher has spent more than four decades studying the origin of flowers. In 1998, he and Sun Ge, a colleague at Jilin University in Changchun, China, presented evidence of a fossil they say is the world’s oldest flowering plant. It lived at least 125 million years ago.

“Flowering plants are the dominant vegetation in the world today,” Dilcher says. “They’re the basic food crop and fiber source for the world’s population. It’s useful for us to understand the relationships among flowering plants, especially in this day of molecular genetic manipulations.

“When you sit down in the morning and have a bowl of Wheaties or cornflakes, that’s a flowering plant,” he said. “When you eat a beef steak, that’s from an animal that ate flowering plants. So, when we study this fossil, we’re looking at the ancestry of what sustains us in the world today.”

Photo credit: Ray Carson — University Photography

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