Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The 1st C4 Grass

Isotopic evidence of C4 grasses in southwestern Europe during the Early Oligocene–Middle Miocene. 2010. M.A. Urban, et al. Geology, First published online November 12.

A new analysis of fossilized grass-pollen grains deposited on ancient European lake and sea bottoms 16-35 million years ago reveals that C4 grasses evolved during the early part of the Oligocene, some 14 million years earlier than previously thought. This new evidence casts doubt on the widely-held belief that the rise of this incredibly productive group of plants was driven by a large drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations during the Oligocene epoch.

C4 plants compose only 3 percent of flowering plant species, yet account for about 25 percent global terrestrial productivity. About 60% of C4 species are grasses, and they dominate the world's grassland and savanna biomes, particularly those in warmer, lower latitude areas. Their ecological success results from the way these species concentrate and then fix carbon dioxide in order to power photosynthesis. link