[ Mission Statement ]
This site is designed as a learning tool for advanced college students of botany, ecology, entomology, evolution, geology, integrative biology, paleontology, and systematics. Gigantopteroid Dot Org is a non-profit library resource for teachers and research specialists interested in the origin of angiosperms and certain clades of holometabolous insects.
The cartoon was drawn by Sul Ross State University geology student Mark Munday in 1981. The artwork by Mark, which is furnished David Rohr, Ph.D., and Mark's help at the delnortea beds is gratefully acknowledged.
Contrary to the incorrect and widely held notion that flowering plants evolved suddenly during the early Cretaceous Period, angiosperms were probably one of several major groups of early Mesozoic or late Paleozoic seed plants that colonized diverse boreal, desert, and tropical terrestrial paleoenvironments together with conifers, cycads, ginkgos, and gnetophytes. According to two studies of well logs recovered by Swiss palynologist, Peter Hochuli, and German geologist, Susanne Feist-Burkhardt, Middle Triassic environments for flowering plants and their sympatric gymnosperm congeners were probably not "restricted to wet understory habitats."
The right-hand image is "PLATE I ¦ Scale bar[s] 10µm. (1), Pollen Type 1, specimen A, LM image (high focus)" (Hochuli, P. A. and S. Feist-Burkhardt , Angiosperm-like pollen and Afropollis from the Middle Triassic [Anisian] of the Germanic Basin [Northern Switzerland], Frontiers in Plant Science, Plant Evolution and Development 4: Article 344). This photomicrograph of s fossilized pollen grain is reproduced by permission from Professor Peter A. Hochuli, Palaeontological Institute and Museum, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
After reading and studying the vast scientific literature and popular news stories dealing with the origin of angiosperms, students and scholars should discover a pervasive tenor and tone in writings. Some arguments may be construed as absurd or sophomoric, and several hypotheses are bizarre and even comic when illuminated by tenets of evolutionary-development (evo-devo), predictive molecular-phylogenetics and Bayesian computational simulations, and mathematical scaling studies of the perianth.
Homologies of the angiosperm flower with certain gymnosperm reproductive short- [spur-] shoots cannot be disproven by mathematical scaling studies of detached floral organs. Flowers are almost certainly not evolutionary novelties since every Bayesian computational simulation supports a Triassic (or older) age estimate for angiosperms. Paleozoic protoflowers are predictable by tool kit evo-devo.
Further, peer review is clubbable and potentially harsh. Important papers are ignored, deliberately not cited or discussed, or relegated to a vast heap of published articles. I composed and designed this web site to fill the void created by cronies, and to illuminate forgotten ideas, which brings to mind script from the pilot episode of a Hollywood television show, of course ...
"That's it" (Mel Brooks and Buck Henry [eds.], 1965, Mr. Big, pilot episode of Get Smart, Hollywood: Paramount Studios and Talent Associates)
Research perspectives on the origin of flowering plants are discussed in three essays. Coevolution between insect and seed plant at the level of their respective cis-regulatory modules and developmental tool kits is proposed to explain the neotenous origin of angiosperms and the flower, and evolution of pollination mutualisms between species of the "Big Five" holometabolous insect orders and flowering plants and gymnosperms.
Solid evidence from biochemistry, biomechanics, coevolutionary studies, developmental biology, genetics, paleobotany, paleoclimatology, paleoecology, paleoentomology, physiology, and systematics, published in peer reviewed international journals and books, is necessary to support a coevolutionary hypothesis on the origin of flowering plants. I provide citations and references to articles, books, and book chapters published in more than 100 scientific journals used in my research to support proposals discussed in the three essays.
The flower is Papaver orientale (Papaveraceae, Ranunculales, Ranunculanae) photographed by John M. Miller, Ph.D. on Kodachrome ASA 25 film and scanned for digital formatting. One of the oldest fossil eudicots in North America belongs to Papaveraceae.
Teachers in K-12 and college settings might find background materials and some of the content on my web site of interest. "Core concepts and competencies" underpinning my web site's content are consistent with The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) and Botanical Society of America (BSA) undergraduate student learning objectives, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and United States National Science Foundation (NSF) Vision and Change Final Report.
We adopt standard scientific policy on the teaching of evolution. A paraphyletic (or polyphyletic) "origin" of stem group angiosperms potentially involving insect- or wind-pollination, natural interspecific hybridization, and paleopolyploidy is proposed here, but in zones of sympatry from potentially widespread seed plant populations indigenous to coastal and extrabasinal, upland habitats of Pangaea (or pre-Pangaea). This premise eliminates any of the southwest Pacific Ocean archipelagos, island arcs, spreading centers, or now submerged continental cratons from consideration as an angiosperm "cradle."
Science teachers and students of evolution should avoid visiting web sites asserting preposterous ideas that "the origin of flowering plants has been discovered," or that a "source of angiosperms" once existed in a discreet interval of geologic time or at a specific geographic location. Some Internet sites resort to unprofessional gimmicks to elevate unscientific literary content to the forefront of the World Wide Web.
Simply put, there was never one "source" of an allopolyploid angiosperm "ancestor." Further, a single "origin" of an ancient hybrid flowering plant population was probably unlikely, based on solid evidence that species of several possible Permo-triassic angiosperm ancestors, e.g. delnorteas, evolsonias, and Vojnovskyales, were spread across thousands of kilometers. Scientists might never fully understand paleoecologies of insect- and fungal-plant mutualisms, ancient saltational speciation and coevolution, or past episodes of pollen- and gene-flow in once sympatric seed plant populations, long dead and gone. This begs two questions:
Is the single paleopolyploid event discerned from study of the Amborella genome including an epsilon (ε)- whole genome duplication (WGD), which is depicted as the asterisk in the figured Structured Abstract of Amborella Genome Project (2013, The Amborella genome and the evolution of flowering plants, Science 342: 1467), part of the late Paleozoic alpha (α)- swarm of whole genome duplications (WGDs) modeled by Jiao et al. (2011, Ancestral polyploidy in seed plants and angiosperms, Nature 473: 97-100.)?
If angiosperms as broadly defined, are fundamentally paraphyletic (and/or polyphyletic), and WGDs (including the γ-triplication) are a result of classic allopolyploidy in paleopopulations of genetically unrelated evolutionary lines, how can a single ancestral Amborella genome be manifest "throughout angiosperm history" (Structured Abstract Discussion, Amborella Genome Project 2013) without genetic input from unrelated, extinct seed plant populations?
A native Fijian iguana Brachylophus vitiensis is pictured above. The animal was photographed by the late John R. H. Gibbons, Ph.D. more than 30 years ago while conducting research in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji Archipelago, South Pacific Ocean.
Finally, Gigantopteroid Dot Com's Library and Classroom Resources are sources of books and book chapters, key words, phrases, journal titles, and topics that help researchers, teachers, and students to more efficiently conduct personal computer searches in Google Scholar or elsewhere for published work on the origin of angiosperms. Our family web page, Gigantopteroid Dot Org, provides homology assessments, data matrixes, and Student Problems for use in phylogenetics courses.