Researchers at the University of Edinburgh made a 400-million-year-old 3D model of the fossil, from which they studied the evolution of the first plants.
The new model shows how one of the earliest root forms developed during the Devonian period: it was then that plants began to spread over the land.
According to experts, after the plants evolved from simple stems to more complex forms with roots, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere on Earth decreased, the soil stabilized and the constant circulation of water began.
An international team of scientists from the University of Edinburgh used digital techniques to create the first complete 3D reconstruction of Asteroxilon, an early ancestor of corms – evergreens with needle-like leaves.
The model helped scientists visualize the structure of the roots and their developmental pathways. The data obtained show that the roots of Asteroxilon developed in a fundamentally different way compared to modern plants.
Asteroxylon has grown through a process called dichotomous branching, which is when the tip of a leafy shoot splits to form two new branches, one of which is a shoot and the other develops into a root. In modern plants, on the other hand, new roots arise within growing shoots or other roots.
Experts note that this discovery shows how an important evolutionary stage took place between the earliest plants, which did not yet have roots, and the living tuberous plants, which already had them.