Carrot Fossil found on Madeira

Carrot Fossil found on Madeira

Carrot fossil found on Madeira

A carrot fossil found on Madeira Island is the world oldest.  More specifically,  the lucky scientist discovered the specimen in Porto da Cruz.  Furthermore, Porta da Cruz belongs to the Camara of Machico.   

This finding is important for several reasons.

Firstly, the Insular Syndromes

Plants on oceanic insular islands can develop insular syndromes.  Flora such as this carrot can produce secondary woodiness.  This is a general trend present in various island flora all over the world.

Much research confirms that the most noticeable aspect of island flora is the relatively large number of woody species.  Often, albeit not always, these plants developed into woody species once on the island.  They evolved from their herbaceous continental ancestors.  This phenomenon is called insular woodiness. (Source).  So insular woodiness refers to an evolutionary process taking place mostly on tropical and subtropical, such as Madeira.

Secondly, the Oldest Carrot Family Fossil

This fossil is the oldest plant fossil of the carrot family in the world.  The team of scientists from the University of Lisbon dates the fossil at 1.3 million year ago.   They hence believe that the carrot arrived on Madeira well before that date to start the evolutionary process described above.

Legend: Melanoselinum (≡ Daucus) decipiens and the fossil mericarps recovered from Porto da Cruz sediments. A, Flowering M. decipiens in the wild (Photo: M. Menezes de Sequeira); B, Drawing outline demonstrating the giant size attained by M. decipiens; C, Detail of an umbel with mature schizocarps, with winged mericarps; D, Detail of a mericarp (dorsal view); E-H, M. decipiens mericarp fossils studied: E, UMad-P501; F, UMad-P502; G, UMad-P503; H, UMad-P504 (fragment).

Thirdly, Celery or Carrot?

The carrot fruit fossil comes from the celeriac family or Melanoselium decipiens.  Today, this botanical name refers mostly to a celery.  However, molecular analyses shows that it is a carrot from the genus Daucus.

It is thus a giant carrot which can easily reach 2 meters in height.  This plant has a tall single woody stem crowned with a broad rosette of large deeply cut ornamental leaves.  Several very large umbels or clusters of fine pink flowers decorate the tree starting during the Summer months.

Daucus decipiens madeira
Madeira Oldest Carrot Fossil Portugal Madeira Island


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