Scientists discovered a fossilized fruit which closely resembles the Mexican husk tomatoes that is around 52 million years old.
The team at Pennsylvania State University discovered the ancient berry at the fossilized rainforest volcanic lake Laguna del Junco in Patagonia, South America.
The ancient berries might have delicately drifted to the lake. Sediments and ash from the nearby volcano might caused its preservation. The acidic lake also helped in its preservation.
52-year old fossil specimen of a Physalis type of plant (Ignacio Escapa/Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio
The plant belongs to the family of Solanaceae
nightshade plants which includes the family of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
"It's the only fossil fruit ever found of this whole group of plants, that now has over 2,000 species," Peter Wilf professor of geosciences in PSU who led the research team told BBC
He added that the fossil of this ancient berry is the only one ever found among its group of 2,000 plants present now.
"No one has ever seen a fossil lantern fruit before. It's just incredible – you can still see the berry there inside the fruit."
The plant is closely related to Mexican tomatillos and Physalis
What's intriguing in this discovery is that the tomatillos and Physalis
evolved a little later when Andes sprouted.
It was said that 50 million years ago South America was closer to Antarctica in a continent Gondwana.
"These fossils are from a late-evolving lineage in the family and it must go back further, at least to the age of the dinosaurs. If we're looking for evidence to back up that idea, then Antarctica is the place we should be looking."
This finding will help us in the understanding of the evolution of the most-prized crops that we have enjoyed today.
The findings are published in Science.
Source: ibtimes.co.uk / BBC