The earliest record of a seed with a pappus-like, parachute seed dispersal mechanism, Edenia villisperma gen. et sp. nov., is described from the Upper Triassic of the eastern United States. The seed is small and roughly triangular. Clusters of long hairs emerge from a whorl of at least five circular scars just below the proximal end. This morphology indicates that the hair clusters represent modified lateral structures similar to the pappus of several eudicot angiosperm groups, but probably representing a case of convergent evolution of a similar structure in a gymnosperm. The seeds are usually found isolated, but one specimen indicates that they were born tightly packed together on an axis. A few earlier records exist of dispersal hairs, but this is the first clearly indicating a pappus-like structure. Although the exact affinities of Edenia are uncertain, this seed demonstrates that plants with highly advanced wind dispersal mechanisms occurred at least 55 million years earlier than previously thought.
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National Museums Scotland
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The Palaeontological Association
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