Jump to Main Content
Carnivorous leaves from Baltic amber
- Sadowski, Eva-Maria, Seyfullah, Leyla J., Sadowski, Friederike, Fleischmann, Andreas, Behling, Hermann, Schmidt, Alexander R.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015 v.112 no.1 pp. 190-195
- Roridulaceae, amber, ancestry, animals, carnivores, carnivorous plants, fossils, insects, leaves, paleobiogeography, trees, South Africa
- The fossil record of carnivorous plants is very scarce and macrofossil evidence has been restricted to seeds of the extant aquatic genus Aldrovanda of the Droseraceae family. No case of carnivorous plant traps has so far been reported from the fossil record. Here, we present two angiosperm leaves enclosed in a piece of Eocene Baltic amber that share relevant morphological features with extant Roridulaceae, a carnivorous plant family that is today endemic to the Cape flora of South Africa. Modern Roridula species are unique among carnivorous plants as they digest prey in a complex mutualistic association in which the prey-derived nutrient uptake depends on heteropteran insects. As in extant Roridula , the fossil leaves possess two types of plant trichomes, including unicellular hairs and five size classes of multicellular stalked glands (or tentacles) with an apical pore. The apices of the narrow and perfectly tapered fossil leaves end in a single tentacle, as in both modern Roridula species. The glandular hairs of the fossils are restricted to the leaf margins and to the abaxial lamina, as in extant Roridula gorgonias . Our discovery supports current molecular age estimates for Roridulaceae and suggests a wide Eocene distribution of roridulid plants.