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A C4 plant from the Pliocene


THE Kranz syndrome1,2 is a group of physiological and anatomical features occurring in certain angiosperms; the grasses in particular show increasing efficiency in CO2 assimilation. Recent research3,4 suggests an origin of the syndrome in South America and its subsequent dominance in other continents. The Kranz syndrome occurs in all plants fixing CO2 by phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase in the mesophyll and subsequent production of Calvin–Benson cycle intermediates in the bundle sheath5. The physiological processes in C4 plants are closely related to their specialised leaf anatomy known as Kranz anatomy6 by which they are distinguished from C3 plants. It is suggested that ancestral non-Kranz C3 grasses originated during the Cretaceous period4. We report here fossil evidence indicating that C4 plants occurred at least during the late Tertiary period.

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NAMBUDIRI, E., TIDWELL, W., SMITH, B. et al. A C4 plant from the Pliocene. Nature 276, 816–817 (1978).

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