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The Cambridge quest to solve Darwin’s abominable mystery

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Darwin’s “abominable mystery” was a major focus of research efforts in the Botany School at Cambridge University in the first half of the twentieth century. This involved a global quest for Jurassic angiosperms, to ameliorate the sudden appearance of diverse angiosperm fossils in the Cretaceous. Several times Jurassic angiosperms seemed to be found, most notably in the case of Caytonia, but the quest was ultimately declared unsuccessful. This lead to a re-assessment of the Cretaceous angiosperm flora in the 1960s, with the view that it represented ancestral groups. The Cambridge quest was effectively dropped at this time. In the past 30 years, as more complex Cretaceous angiosperm fossils have been found, the view that they are all ancestral has become untenable. Darwin’s “abominable mystery” remains unsolved but (as far as I am aware) the Cambridge quest has never been resumed.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars series.

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