Flowering plants flourished during the Tertiary period. There was also a great deal of evolution for plants during that time. It was a time of ecological upheaval that demanded evolution from all living things, plant and animal alike. The dinosaurs were gone and mammals not only survived but thrived with a great deal of help from the flourishing plants.
The history of flowering plants, also known as angiosperms, goes back beyond the Tertiary period to the early Cretaceous about 140 million years ago. By the beginning of the Tertiary period, 60 to 70 million years after the beginning of their existence, flowering plants had come into their own. They dominated the landscape, providing a new source of food for the herbivores of that time period. The demise of the dinosaur at the beginning of the Tertiary period gave way to a new age and time of evolution for mammals. Surviving rodents, rabbits and tiny deer-like creatures thrived on the new abundance of food.
Many types of flowering plants from that age are still in existence today. There is fossilized evidence of the existence of magnolias, tulip trees, trillium and many more during the Tertiary period. A wide range of grasses also thrived and evolved during that time.
Flowering plants closely resembling plants from the Late Cretaceous-Early Tertiary period that grew in the Antarctic now exist in the rainforests of southern Chile. The ecosystems in the forests of Valdivia, South America, are similar to those that existed on the Antarctic peninsula. The common predominant ecological factor is volcanic activity. It is believed that volcanic activity and the resulting environmental disturbance was responsible for much of the evolution of plant life during the Tertiary period. There is some similar plant life currently growing in the native forests of southern Australia as well.
Flowering plants of the Tertiary period were pollinated in much the same way as plants today. There were bees, wasps and moths at the time that would carry the pollen from plant to plant. Evidence suggests that this pollination activity also contributed to the evolution of plant life at that time. This would have allowed cross pollination of plants separated by great distances resulting in genetic exchanges that otherwise could not have taken place.
The flowering plants of the Tertiary period provided color and scent to the prehistoric picture. In the area of the Antarctic the star anise would have given a show of red or yellow flowers. Some of the animals may have enjoyed munching on anise seeds.
- Photo Credit magnolia image by Andrzej Włodarczyk from Fotolia.com
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