Moss grows in a garden in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.
(Dale Sievert, via AP)
The arrival of the plants on Earth changed the planet and its inhabitants in great ways, and a new study suggests they came much earlier than thought. University of Bristol researchers now say that land plants evolved from the pond scum of approximately 500 million years ago—100 million years earlier than the history books tell us, per release.
The date that we have long used is based on the fossil record, but there are not so great when it comes to planting, because they are much less likely to be preserved than, say, an animal with bones.
In the hope to find the answer outside of the fossil record, study co-author Mark Puttick and a team of researchers looked at differences in the DNA of more than 100 plants and algae, and species to see when they diverged on the evolutionary scale, reports Science.
The study dates back to the first land plants, 500 million years ago in the middle Cambrian period, which also saw the first appearance of terrestrial animals, which could have enjoyed protection, extra oxygen, and a cooler planet as a result of the plants, researchers say.
Their research, published in PNAS, “changes the entire timeline for the origin of earthly life and the subsequent pace of the evolutionary changes in the plants and the associated animals (and fungi) groups,” plant biologist Pamela Soltis, who was not involved in the study, tells Science.
There is still some discussion about which plants came first, but the BBC reports they were comparable with mos. According to researcher Philip’donoghue, they “would have tickled your toes, but does not reach much higher.” (See the “holy grail” of plant breeding.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: A New Study Just Rewrote the History Book on Plants