Fossil Ginkgo Leaf - 3.79"
Fossil Ginkgo Leaf - 3.79"
The Ginkgo tree is a beautiful plant with fascinating fan-like leaves that turn a rich gold in autumn. First appearing in the Jurassic Period, this magnificent gymnosperm has changed very little over the past several million years, making the modern tree a living fossil of its prehistoric ancestors.
This specimen is a 3.79" fossil Ginkgo cranei leaf from the Sentinel Butte Formation in North Dakota. This formation and the fossil are from the Paleocene and date back over 55,000,000 years.
📸 A sample Ginkgo fossil and stand
The modern Ginkgo tree is a living fossil, a flowerless seed plant that has changed little since it first appeared in the fossil record 160 million years ago. The prehistoric plants, with their veiny, fan-like leaves, had extremely long lifespans, similar to their current descendants. This made them slow to evolve, keeping a close resemblance between this fossil and living leaf specimens.
This specimen is a fossil Ginkgo cranei leaf from the Sentinel Butte Formation in North Dakota. It is estimated to be over 55,000,000 years old.
Each specimen is a one-of-a-kind imprint fossil that still retains details from the leaf after millions of years. The specimen ships with a metal stand for display and an informational photo card which serves as certificate of authenticity.
Several different leaf fossils are available and have been listed below by size.
📸 The many patterns of Ginkgo leaf fossils
MORE ABOUT GINKGO LEAVES
📸 A fossilized Ginkgo cranei leaf pair
In cities across the world, ginkgo trees stand tall, resistant to billowing smog and acidic soil. Truth is, these trees have survived far worse, from the fiery K-Pg extinction to the freezing Pleistocene glaciation.
Ginkgos today grow to be around 20-35 meters (60-115 ft) tall. The genus thrived in the prehistoric world until the Pliocene, when they nearly disappeared from the fossil record save for one species.
The modern Ginkgo biloba is the last member of the Ginkgoale order, still growing wildly in China and adorning sidewalks in cities worldwide. Through these trees, we can speculate on their ancient ancestors, tracking their evolution across 200 million years from the Jurassic Period to today.
The ginkgo genus is a rarity among seed plants for its curious form of reproduction, utilizing quick-moving motile sperm, propelled by thousands of flagella tails. This reproduction strategy is more in line with ferns and mosses, both of which evolved around 350 million years ago, testifying to ginkgo’s great age.
The discovery was made in 1896 by botanist Hirase Sakugorō based on a living Ginkgo biloba tree, but the strategy was also used by biloba’s extinct cousins. In fact, much of what botanists have learned from the modern Ginkgo biloba sheds light on the prehistoric ginkgo group.
Their seeds’ smell (while foul to humans) is theorized to have attracted extinct megafauna that ate the seeds and then later “distributed” them through their feces. This is in line with the theory advanced in “Neotropical Anachronisms: The Fruits the Gomphotheres Ate” and could explain why the ginkgo has mostly died out. Without the Pleistocene megafauna, there was nothing to help distribute new ginkgo trees, until humans began to cultivate the plant.
This specimen is a Ginkgo cranei Paleocene fossil leaf from the Sentinel Butte Formation of the Fort Union Group in North Dakota, dated to 55-58 million years ago. It is named for Peter Crane, author of Ginkgo: The Tree that Time Forgot and an authority on the trees.
Ginkgo cranei is strikingly similar to the living Ginkgo biloba with comparable ovulate organs but differentiated by cranei’s smaller seeds and biloba’s greater number of stomata openings on its leaves. These similarities demonstrate just how old the living ginkgo trees are, much unchanged since they stood alongside dinosaurs.
Crane, Peter R. Ginkgo the Tree That Time Forgot. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. Print.
Janzen DH, Martin PS. Neotropical Anachronisms: The Fruits the Gomphotheres Ate. Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science). 1982;215(4528):19-27. doi:10.1126/science.215.4528.19
Zhou, Zhiyan, et al. “Tertiary Ginkgo Ovulate Organs with Associated Leaves from North Dakota, U.S.A., and Their Evolutionary Significance.” International Journal of Plant Sciences, vol. 173, no. 1, 2012, pp. 67–80, https://doi.org/10.1086/662651.