The largest non-carbonaceous plant fossils, 140 times bigger than today’s algae species, have been discovered in western Rajasthan, opening a new window for understanding evolution of life on earth.
A team of researchers from the University of Lucknow have discovered the fossils with physical characteristics of Vaucheriacean plant, a type of yellow-green algae found in fresh or marine water, five kms from Jodhpur in Sursagar mines region.
Generally plant fossils contain carbon and have simple structures. Fossils which are non-carbonaceous or lacking carbon content are rare, according to the scientists.
The findings of megaplant fossils imply a high possibility of presence of hydrocarbons in the Marwar Basin as the Vaucheriacean plants are known to reserve oil as food material, the University said.
The fossils, which are visible to the naked eye are well-preserved with the size of the plant 140 times larger than the existing species, lead author of the paper, Surendra Kumar of Centre of Advanced Study in Geology, University of Lucknow said.
The scientists said the plants attained such large size during the Ediacaran period some 630-542 million years ago.
The occurrence of giant-sized plant fossils in Jodhpur sandstone has opened a new window for understanding the evolution of life, especially the phenomena of giganticism in plants during the period, the scientists said.
The finding may also explain the sudden explosion of animal life in the Cambrian era i.e 542 to 488.3 million years ago which follows the Edicaran period 630 to 542 million years.
The Cambrian era is significant as there was a sudden change in life form on earth from small and simple to complex living beings.
The fossil-bearing sandstone is light-yellowish to brown in colour and medium grained and the fossils are characterised by brown colour on the very fine sandstone.
The form and shape of the fossils is unusual and does not match with any of the known forms described from the Precambrian sequences, according to Kumar.
The plant fossils occur in the form of filaments on the top of the sandstone bed. The filaments look like body of a plant. The body is sinuous to straight, tapering at one end with smooth surface. Large-sized forms are also striated i.e stripped in appearance, according to the research published in Current Science.
The scientists found that branching was quite common in the fossil which also had beads at some of the ends of branched body.
The width of the plant body varies from 0.3 to 2.0 cm and the maximum recorded length is 54 cm. At places, one fossil also superimposes over an older plant, they found.
The samples are currently deposited in the museum of the Centre of Advanced Study in Geology, University of Lucknow.