Evolution Trivia Quiz
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4. Late arrival
The vegetable kingdom, which is to say members of the eukaryote group Plantae, are descended from algae. The first primitive plant life emerged from water onto land about a billion years ago, but plants with modern touches like roots and leaves didn’t arrive until much later, in the Devonian Period. Which major plant group was the most recent to appear in the fossil record?
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The ferns are one of the oldest plant groups, dating from the late Devonian (about 360 million years ago). They reproduce by means of spores. Trees consist of a number of unrelated groups, botanically speaking; their earliest representatives also appeared in the Devonian, but it wasn’t until the following Carboniferous period that they really took off. The flowering plants, or gymnosperms, are the largest and most varied plant group; their oldest known fossil dates from about 130 million years ago, in the early Cretaceous period. The grasses, including bamboos and cereal grains as well more obviously grasslike plants, are the most recent major group to emerge, first appearing in the late Cretaceous. After the dinosaurs passed into oblivion, the rapidly spreading grasses helped pave the way for an explosion of ungulate mammals in the early Cenozoic period.
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