The delayed rise of angiosperm families

Flowering plants, with more than ~290,000 species in 435 families, are the dominant and most important group of terrestrial plants. However, the origin and diversification of flowering plants (angiosperms) has been surrounded by controversy ever since Charles Darwin called this an ‘abominable mystery’ back in 1879.  As far as the fossil record goes, flowering plants suddenly appeared in the Early Cretaceous (~140 million years ago) and almost immediately (by geological standards) started to diversify dramatically, eventually resulting in one of the most transformative revolutions in Earth’s history.  However, the initial burst of diversification of flowering plants did not translate into these being dominant in terrestrial ecosystems. No one knows exactly when this happened or which groups of angiosperms (living or extinct) were involved in the transition to angiosperm-dominated ecosystems as we know today. This is exactly what we wanted to answer in our most recent publication in Nature Ecology and Evolution (Ramírez-Barahona et al. 2020).

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