Love living in an ancient ecosystem! 40 Million years plus.

Photo courtesy of Steve Hopper of Kwongan Foundation

It is often claimed that Australians plants need fire and are adapted to fire, but what is the evidence for such statements? Shown here is a fossilised cone of a Banksia that lived 40 million years ago next to a cone of a Banksia that is with us today. The climate was a lot wetter when the ancient Banksia was around, so protection against fire is a very unlikely explanation for the structure we see. Defence against predators like cockatoos would appear to be a far more likely explanation, argue Bradshaw et al. (2011). If we don’t really know what forces led to the traits we observe the term exaptation is far more prudent. Photos: courtesy of Steve Hopper.

For further information: Bradshaw SD, Dixon KW, Hopper SD, Lambers H and Turner SR 2011 Little evidence for fire-adapted plant traits in Mediterranean climate regions. Trends Plant Sci. 16:69-76.

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© Raana Scott - Carnaby cockatoo in flight, flame grevillea