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Oldest land-plant microfossils in Australia found in WA’s Canning Basin

Oldest land-plant microfossils in Australia found in WA’s Canning Basin

The oldest Australian cryptospore, from the Ordovician period, 460 million years ago.

Collaborative research led by the WA Organic & Isotope Geochemistry Centre at Curtin University and supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC), has discovered the oldest land-plant microfossils in Australia, after analysing rocks from Western Australia’s Canning Basin.

The approximately 460 million year old sample was taken from the Goldwyer Formation, which was deposited during a time known as the Ordovician Period, in the Paleozoic Era.

The early Paleozoic, specifically the Middle Ordovician, marks a significant period in Earth’s history due to the appearance and diversification of life on land.

Researchers John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice and PhD student Gemma Spaak, both from Curtin University, explained research into early land-plants relies mostly on the preservation and recovery of acid-resistant microfossils, known as cryptospores, which can be found in sedimentary rocks.

“Our research involved the recovery and identification of the oldest crytospores in Australia, which allows us to investigate the palaeoenvironmental conditions associated with plant life in this Period,” Ms Spaak said.

“As this is the first discovery of Middle Ordovician cryptospores in equatorial environments, our results help provide further insight into the geographical distribution and evolution of early land plants.”

The research, which has been published in the Journal of Global and Planetary Change, was funded by the Australian Government through an ARC Discovery Outstanding Research Award.

Media Issued by Curtin University.

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