Movie clip (.mpg) from The emergence of core eudicots: new floral evidence from the earliest Late Cretaceous

Eudicots, the most diverse of the three major clades of living angiosperms, are first recognized in the latest Barremian–earliest Aptian. All Early Cretaceous forms appear to be related to species-poor lineages that diverged before the rise of core eudicots, which today comprise more than 70% of angiosperm species. Here, we report the discovery of a well-preserved flower, <i>Caliciflora mauldinensis</i>, from the earliest Late Cretaceous, with unequivocal core eudicot features, including five sepals, five petals and two whorls of stamens borne on the rim of a floral cup containing three free carpels. Pollen is tricolporate. Carpels mature into follicular fruitlets. This character combination suggests a phylogenetic position among rosids, but more specific assignment is precluded by complex patterns of character evolution among the very large number of potentially relevant extant taxa. The whorled floral organization is consistent with ideas that this stable pattern evolved early and was a prerequisite for more integrated patterns of floral architecture that evolved later. However, limited floral synorganization in <i>Caliciflora</i> and all earlier eudicot flowers recognized so far, calls into question hypotheses that substantial diversification of core eudicots had already occurred by the end of the Early Cretaceous.