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Transform landmark Indigenous rights declaration into reality: UN General Assembly President


“In these trying times – where peace is under severe threat, and dialogue and diplomacy are in dire need – let us be an example of constructive dialogue to honour our commitments to Indigenous Peoples,” Dennis Francis told world leaders and ambassadors meeting in the General Assembly Hall.

Member States convened to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, where countries reaffirmed their commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous People.

The outcome document voiced support for implementing the landmark UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007, which prescribed minimum standards for the recognition, protection and promotion of these rights. 

Poverty, inequality and abuse 

Mr. Francis reflected on UN achievements over this period, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which promises to leave no one behind, and the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032),which aims to both preserve these languages and protect Indigenous cultures, traditions, wisdom and knowledge.

“Despite these strides, Indigenous Peoples still are more likely to live in extreme poverty – still more likely to suffer from the adverse impacts of climate change, and still more likely to face dispossession and eviction from ancestral lands, as well as having unequal access to health and education, compared to other groups,” he said. 

Additionally, Indigenous women are still three times more likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetime compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.  

“We must intensify our actions to translate the landmark 2007 UN Declaration into meaningful change on the ground,” he said. 

Ensure intrinsic rights 

Li Jinhua, head of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noted that the lack of effective participation by Indigenous Peoples in development processes continues to be a major obstacle in advancing efforts at the national level.  

However, with UN assistance, some governments have adopted national action plans and other measures to support the effective implementation of the landmark declaration on Indigenous rights.  

He urged countries to establish concrete measures to recognize and ensure the intrinsic, collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right of self-determination and autonomy, as well as their historical property and cultural rights. 

“Member States must close the persistent gaps in implementation through targeted interventions that are consistent with Indigenous Peoples’ own laws, customs and traditions. More direct, long-term and predictable funding must also be part of the solution,” he added. 

‘Mother Earth peoples’ 

The Vice-President of Bolivia, David Choquehuanca, highlighted challenges facing the world’s Indigenous Peoples, starting with this designation. 

“To begin, we have to recognize that passively, we’ve allowed ourselves to be baptized with the name of Indigenous Peoples,” he said, opting instead for the terms “ancestral indigenous peoples” and “Mother Earth peoples”

He said Indigenous Peoples participate in UN events “as disintegrated bodies, sapped of our energy and lacking structure” because “Eurocentric, anthropocentric and egocentric approaches” are favoured over the “cosmobiocentric approaches” they hold dear. 

Towards full participation

With the Agenda 2030 deadline looming, the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, stressed the importance of including Indigenous Peoples in voluntary national reviews on progress towards sustainable development. 

“Special attention is needed for Indigenous women and girls, the custodians of our traditions and insights into sustainable living,” she added. 

Ms. Ibrahim also called for recognizing Indigenous-led initiatives, including from the 2013 Alta Conference in Norway, which shaped the UN World Conference held the following year. 

“We reiterate the Alta call for establishing mechanisms at the UN for our full participation and advocate for the urgent appointment of an Under-Secretary-General for Indigenous Peoples,” she said. 

She added that in Indigenous communities, every voice is heard – from wise elders to those just starting to speak.  

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Mastering finance essentials with Mercury’s VP of finance, Dan Kang, at TechCrunch Early Stage


TechCrunch Early Stage is gearing up for another insightful event on April 25, and one roundtable session promises to be particularly illuminating for early-stage founders. Titled “Finance Fundamentals Before Your First Finance Hire: A Founder’s Guide to Navigating Early Financial Decisions,” this roundtable will offer invaluable insights into navigating the financial complexities that often accompany the early stages of startup ventures.

Led by Dan Kang, the vice president of finance at Mercury, this roundtable aims to demystify the core aspects of early-stage financial management. With years of experience in building and scaling fintech companies, Kang brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. From optimizing cash flow to making strategic hires and investments, attendees can expect practical advice on establishing a solid financial foundation for their ventures.

Kang’s expertise extends beyond his role at Mercury, having previously contributed to the growth of companies like Digit and Square. His diverse background, which includes experience in investment banking and private equity, uniquely positions him to address the multifaceted challenges that founders may encounter on their financial journey.

For founders looking to gain confidence in their financial decision-making and set the stage for successful scaling, this roundtable is not to be missed. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or embarking on your first startup venture, “Finance Fundamentals Before Your First Finance Hire” offers actionable insights that can empower you to navigate the financial landscape with clarity and purpose.

Secure your spot at TechCrunch Early Stage today to take advantage of this invaluable opportunity to learn from industry experts like Dan Kang. With the right knowledge and guidance, you can pave the way for financial success and steer your startup toward sustainable growth.

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TUXEDO Computers Unveils Linux Laptop Featuring… » Linux Magazine


TUXEDO Computers never shies away from doing something bold, which makes it no surprise that they are the first company to develop a Linux laptop powered by AMD’s Ryzen 8040 APU. And it doesn’t stop there. The new laptop also offers an RDNA 3 dedicated mobile GPU.

The model in question is the Sirius 16 Gen 2 gaming laptop. The mobile GPU in question is AMD’s Radeon RX 7600M XT (based on the Navi 33 RDNA 3 graphics core.

This GPU includes a total of 32 compute units, 2048 shader units, 32 MB of Infinity cache, 8 GB GDDR6 memory (across a 128-bit wide bus), and a clock speed that maxes out at 2615 MHZ.

The full specs of the Sirius 16 Gen 2 include the AMD Ryzen 7 8845S (with 8 cores, 16 threads, 5.1 GHz max, 24 MB cache, and 54 W TDP), 16 GB DDR5 MHz Samsung RAM, AMD Radeon RX 7600M XT GPU, 500 GB Samsung 980 NVMe PCIe 3.0 drive, backlit keyboard with TUX super-key, Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210, Bluetooth 5.3, TUXEDO OS, and a 2-year warranty.

The display is 16.1″ 2K 165 Hz, the battery is 80 Wh, the RAM can be upgraded to 96 GB DDR5-5200, and the internal storage can be upped to 8 TB PCIe 4.0.

You can pre-order TUXDEO Computer’s new “Binary Star” now. The base price is 1.666,00 EUR, and the maximum price is 3,000 EUR. As of this writing, there is no indication as to the shipping date.



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‘Tube map’ around planets and moons made possible by knot theory


Credit: Astrodynamics (2024). DOI: 10.1007/s42064-024-0201-0

Just as sat-nav did away with the need to argue over the best route home, scientists from the University of Surrey have developed a new method to find the optimal routes for future space missions without the need to waste fuel. The paper is published in the journal Astrodynamics.

The new method uses mathematics to reveal all possible routes from one to another without guesswork or using enormous computer power.

Danny Owen, who developed the technique at the Surrey Space Center, said, “Previously, when the likes of NASA wanted to plot a route, their calculations relied on either brute force or guesswork.

“Our new technique neatly reveals all possible routes a spacecraft could take from A to B, as long as both orbits share a common energy level.

“This makes the task of planning missions much simpler. We think of it as a tube map for space.”

In recent decades, space missions have increasingly relied on the ability to change the course of a satellite’s path through space without using fuel.

One way of doing this is to find ‘heteroclinic connections’—the paths that allow spacecraft to transfer from one orbit to another without using fuel.

The mathematics for finding these paths is complex—usually calculated by using vast computing power to churn through one option after another or by making an ‘intelligent guess’ and then investigating it further.

This new technique uses an area of math called to quickly generate rough trajectories—which can then be refined. By doing so, space agencies can gain a full list of all possible routes from a designated orbit. They can then choose the one that best suits their mission—much as you might choose a route by studying the tube map.

The technique was tested successfully on various —including the moon, and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. Both of these are the focus of current and future missions.

Dr. Nicola Baresi, Lecturer in Orbital Mechanics at the University of Surrey, said, “Spurred on by NASA’s Artemis program, the new moon race is inspiring mission designers around the world to research fuel-efficient routes that can better and more efficiently explore the vicinity of the .

“Not only does our technique make that cumbersome task more straightforward, but it can also be applied to other planetary systems, such as the icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter.”

More information:
Danny Owen et al, Applications of knot theory to the detection of heteroclinic connections between quasi-periodic orbits, Astrodynamics (2024). DOI: 10.1007/s42064-024-0201-0

‘Tube map’ around planets and moons made possible by knot theory (2024, April 17)
retrieved 17 April 2024
from https://phys.org/news/2024-04-tube-planets-moons-theory.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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Violations of women’s reproductive health rights trigger rise in preventable deaths


Interwoven Lives, Threads of Hope: Ending inequalities in sexual and reproductive health and rights, reveals that more than half of all preventable maternal deaths occur in countries which are in a state of crisis or distress.

It highlights the role that racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination play in blocking progress on sexual and reproductive health issues. 

Women and girls trapped in poverty are more likely to die prematurely due to lack of sufficient healthcare if they belong to minority groups or are trapped in a conflict setting, according to the findings. 

“For sexual and reproductive health issues, the sad truth is that rather than all hands on deck and working together, there’s kind of a polarization dialogue, a divisive type of attitude, and in a way, a ‘second class citizen’ attitude for the rights of women and girls,” UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said in an interview to UN News.

Overall, there have been significant advances in sexual and reproductive health it became a global sustainable development priority three decades ago.

In the space of a generation, we have reduced the unintended pregnancy rate by nearly one fifth, lowered the maternal death rate by one third, and secured laws against domestic violence in more than 160 countries,” UNFPA Executive Director said, launching the report.

Stalled progress

But progress is slowing down or stalled in several key areas. In a world where a quarter of women cannot say no to sex with their partner and nearly one in 10 have no say over contraception, 800 women die every day giving birth – a disturbing figure that has remained unchanged since 2016.

Nearly 500 of those preventable deaths per day are happening in countries living through humanitarian crises and conflicts. 

The world made zero progress in saving women from preventable deaths in pregnancy and childbirth,” said Ms. Kanem, adding that for the first time, data was collected on whether women’s bodily autonomy is strengthening over time.

In 40 per cent of countries where information is available, autonomy is weakening due to an inability to reach “those furthest behind”, she added.

There is a clear disparity between the global North and South, West and East, when it comes to contraceptives, safe birth services, respectful maternity care, and other essential services, the report documents.

Pockets of inequality

Yet, even within those regions there are “pockets of inequality”, the report underscores. Women of African descent in the Americas face higher maternal mortality rates compared to white women, which is especially evident in the United States where it’s three times the national average. 

Indigenous and ethnic minorities also face elevated risks related to pregnancy and childbirth. 

Within Europe, in Albania, for example, over 90 per cent of Roma women from the most marginalized socioeconomic groups had serious problems in accessing healthcare compared with only five per cent of ethnic Albanian women from the most privileged strata. 

Additionally, women with disabilities are up to ten times more likely to experience gender-based violence, and individuals of diverse sexual orientation and gender expression encounter significant violence and barriers to care.


No ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions 

The report highlights the importance of tailoring programmes to the needs of communities and empowering women and girls to craft and implement innovative solutions. 

It also calculates that if additional $79 billion are invested in low and middle-income countries by 2030, 400 million unplanned pregnancies could be averted, a million lives saved and $660 billion in economic benefits could be generated

 “Women are half of society and women are stepping up to claim their full rights. We believe that the ability of human society to prosper really depends on looking at who’s vulnerable,” Ms. Kanem told UN News.

The ability to secure reproductive health rights, the UNFPA Executive Director believes, is another major challenge.   

“It is indeed the responsibility of men to be champions of women’s reproductive rights, of everyone’s reproductive rights,” Ms. Kanem said.

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Want to Sneak In a Workout While Crushing Emails? Try an Under-Desk Treadmill


The devices let you walk, even jog, while you’re sending quick messages and trying to stay awake through dreary video meetings. Three of our favorites.

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UN leaders call for more action to end racism and discrimination


UN Secretary-General António Guterres celebrated the achievements and contributions of people of African descent from across the world, while addressing the forum via video message, but also acknowledged existing racial discrimination and inequalities Black people continue to face. 

He said the establishment of the Permanent Forum shows a dedication from the international community to address these injustices. Still, it needs to be backed by significant change for people of African descent globally.

“Now we must build on that momentum to drive meaningful change – by ensuring that people of African descent enjoy the full and equal realization of their human rights; by stepping up efforts to eliminate racism and discrimination – including through reparations; and by taking steps towards the full inclusion of people of African descent in society as equal citizens,” said Mr. Guterres. 

‘Formidable convening power’

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif praised the forum for its “formidable convening power” by meeting for a third high profile session less than two years after becoming operational.

She commended the forum’s planned 70 side events focusing on climate justice, education, health, and more for people of African descent, saying it shows a “remarkable effort, amplifying the reach and impact of our collective commitment.”

Ms. Al-Nashif urged Member States to participate in discussions and act on recommendations derived from them. 

“Only then can we ensure that all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of people of African descent can be fully realized without discrimination or bias,” she said.

Decade should extend

Ms. Al-Nashif said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, supports the extension of the International Decade for people of African Descent – a time proclaimed by the General Assembly in 2015 to focus on recognition, justice and development. 

During the Permanent Forum, a conversation will be centred around achievement limitations and expectations of the requested second international decade. 

“We look forward to the outcome of the discussions of this session; and we will be following the intergovernmental discussions in relation to the International Decade throughout this year,” said Ms. Al-Nashif.

All reports from the Permanent Forum will be presented to the 57th session of the UN Human Rights Council in September, as well as the new session of the UN General Assembly, which begins that month.

A fight for change

The Deputy High Commissioner said her office is continuing to look for ways to ensure “the meaningful, inclusive, and safe participation of people of African descent in public life is essential in the fight against systemic racism.”

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Apple to let EU users download apps from the web with iOS 17.5 Beta 2. How it works


iPhone - Apple App Store

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

With iOS 17.5 Beta 2 rolling out soon, authorized app developers will be able to distribute their apps via the web to iPhone users in the European Union. 

Also: Apple’s new AI model could understand your home screen and supercharge Siri

While Apple has been vocal about controlling the apps distributed outside its App Store following pressure from the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) to allow sideloading, the latest update marks another avenue the iPhone maker is opening up for users to access new apps and services.

How it works

To download iOS apps from the web, the user must be on an iPhone running iOS 17.5 Beta 2. If it’s their first time downloading from a developer, tapping on the “Download” (or “Install”) button of a website will ask the user to permit app downloads from their iPhone settings.

Allowing the external installation means you’re agreeing to the developer’s terms and conditions and giving them access to your data. Should you move forward, the iPhone will run a Face ID scan to download the external app. 

Also: You can now view, search, and filter your entire Apple App Store purchase history

“When installing an app, a system sheet will display information that developers have submitted to Apple for review, like the app name, developer name, app description, screenshots, and system age rating,” Apple mentions in its Tuesday press release. 

As far as app updates go, as long as developers implement their web distribution and APIs correctly, apps downloaded from the web should update automatically.

How do developers qualify?

Developers who want to offer their apps for downloading through a website must be enrolled in the Apple Developer Program for at least two continuous years (with “good standing” status), have an app with more than one million first-time installs on iOS in the EU in the past year, and comply with Apple’s notarization process, including providing clear data collection policies. 

Also: Apple to allow used parts for some iPhone repairs

Developers should also be able to attest to IP disputes and government take-downs if they occur. Lastly, Apple expects qualifying developers to provide users with customer service, especially with the apps being offered outside of the App Store’s purview. To learn more about web distribution in the EU, Apple’s developer Support Page is now live.

Once qualification is asserted, Apple will give authorized app developers access to an API for web downloads. Apps downloaded from websites should look and act like other apps downloaded on the App Store. Users can back up, restore, and update these apps like any other.

Why it’s a big deal

This is the first time Apple has officially allowed app sideloading on iPhones, which allows developers to avoid paying Apple’s commissions of up to 30%. The developers of apps distributed outside the App Store will still be subject to a 0.50EUR Core Technology Fee. 

Also: Apple confirms WWDC 2024 for June 10 – will AI steal the show?

The DMA forced Apple to allow app sideloading in the EU effective March 2024. Though Apple was originally planning for sideloaded apps to only be available through alternative marketplaces, the company announced in March that it would also allow apps to be downloaded directly from websites. 

As the DMA only covers the EU, the ability to sideload these apps is restricted to iPhone users living in the EU. Downloading apps directly from websites is only available on the iPhone, not the iPad. 

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Gaza: No let up in deadly toll as rights chief demands end to suffering


“Six months into the war, 10,000 Palestinian women in Gaza have been killed, among them an estimated 6,000 mothers, leaving 19,000 children orphaned,” said UN Women, in a new report.

“More than one million women and girls in Gaza have almost no food, no access to safe water, latrines, washrooms, or sanitary pads, with disease growing amidst inhumane living conditions.”

Echoing those concerns, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) issued a new ceasefire call so that humanitarian relief can be brought into Gaza to help rebuild hospitals including Al Shifa, which has been “basically destroyed” after a recent Israeli incursion. 
“The management is trying to get the emergency department cleaned (but) the work is just enormous to get just a cleaning done, let alone to get supplies,” said WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic, following a new UN health agency mission to the devastated medical facility in Gaza City on Monday. 

Little left to salvage

Only a third of Gaza’s 36 hospitals remain functional meaning that it is essential to “preserve what is left” of the enclave’s health system, Mr. Jasarevic insisted. 

But needs remain massive with more than 76,000 people injured, according to the local authorities, and several UN agencies have repeatedly warned that amputations and C-section births have gone ahead without anaesthetic.

“Once again we’re calling really for the deconfliction mechanism to be effective, to be transparent and to be workable,” the WHO officer said, referring to the approvals system used by humanitarians in conjunction with the warring parties to try to ensure that aid convoys are not targeted. 

Concerns remain over the deconfliction protocol after seven aid workers from the NGO World Central Kitchen were killed in Israeli airstrikes on 1 April.

But “more than half” of planned WHO missions between last October and the end of March “have been either denied or delayed or face other obstacles so they have to be postponed, so we really need that access”, Mr. Jasarevic insisted, amid repeated dire warnings from humanitarians about impending famine in Gaza.

No relief for injured

A lack of staff, needles, stitches and other essential medical equipment have meant that “injured children often languish in pain,” in hospitals or in makeshift shelters, noted Tess Ingram, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Communication specialist. 

Speaking from Cairo after her latest mission to northern Gaza where her UN vehicle came under attack, Ms. Ingram told journalists that it was notable just how many youngsters had been injured during intense Israeli bombardment, launched in response to Hamas-led terror attacks in southern Israel on 7 October.

“Imagine for a second being strip-searched naked and questioned for hours, told that you’re safe and then you leave; you quickly walk down the street praying that you will be okay. But then you’re shot at, your father is killed and a bullet penetrates your naked pelvis causing serious internal and external injuries that are going to require reconstructive surgery. At a field hospital Younis told me this happened to him. He is 14.”

The UNICEF officer also highlighted how difficult it remains to evacuate desperately injured or sick patients for medical care outside Gaza. Less than half of all “medivac” requests have been approved meaning that only around 4,500 people – “most of them children” – have been able to leave Gaza at a rate of less than 20 a day.

Rights chief’s call

Highlighting the plight of those in Gaza, UN human rights chief Volker Türk on Monday urged “all States with influence” to halt the “increasingly horrific human rights and humanitarian crisis” unfolding there.

Israel continues to impose unlawful restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian assistance and to carry out widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights maintained, before repeating calls for an immediate ceasefire and the release of all remaining hostages.

West Bank spiralling

The High Commissioner for Human Rights also expressed deep concern about rising violence and “waves of attacks” in recent days against Palestinians in the West Bank “by hundreds of Israeli settlers, often accompanied or supported by Israeli Security Forces (ISF)”. 

Following the killing of a 14-year-old Israeli boy from a settler family, four Palestinians, including a child, were killed and Palestinian property was destroyed in revenge attacks, Mr. Türk said in a statement.

Citing information received by his office, OHCHR, the UN rights chief reported that armed settlers and Israeli forces entered “a number of towns” including Al Mughayyer, Beitin village in Ramallah, Duma and Qusra in Nablus, as well as the Bethlehem and Hebron Governorates. 

Dozens of Palestinians were reportedly injured in the ensuing violence “and hundreds of homes and other buildings, as well as cars, were torched”, the High Commissioner said, before insisting that “neither Palestinians nor Israelis should take the law into their own hands to exact revenge”.

Regional ‘trigger’

In a related development in Geneva, the head of a high-level UN-appointed independent rights probe into the Occupied Palestinian Territory spoke of her “serious alarm” at the potential for military escalation between Israel and Iran and the risks of triggering a regional conflict. 

In a briefing to Arab League States days after Iran launched a massive drone and missile strike against Israel, Navi Pillay highlighted the “unprecedented” scale of war sustained by Israel.
To date, more than 33,200 people have been killed, according to Gaza’s health authority, Ms. Pillay said, with some 40 per cent of schools directly hit in attacks, and 1.7 million people displaced inside the enclave.

“The complete siege imposed on Gaza since October 2023 has resulted in an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe with famine and starvation now a reality for its residents,” said the head of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel. The destruction of roads and infrastructure has severely  compromised the ability of humanitarian actors to bring in aid to the population.”

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Seed ferns: Plants experimented with complex leaf vein networks 201 million years ago


According to a research team led by palaeontologists from the University of Vienna, the net-like leaf veining typical for today’s flowering plants developed much earlier than previously thought, but died out again several times. Using new methods, the fossilised plant Furcula granulifer was identified as such an early forerunner. The leaves of this seed fern species already exhibited the net-like veining in the late Triassic (around 201 million years ago). The study was recently published in the journal New Phytologist.

According to a research team led by palaeontologists from the University of Vienna, the net-like leaf veining typical for today’s flowering plants developed much earlier than previously thought, but died out again several times. Using new methods, the fossilised plant Furcula granulifer was identified as such an early forerunner. The leaves of this seed fern species already exhibited the net-like veining in the late Triassic (around 201 million years ago). The study was recently published in the journal New Phytologist.

Mario Coiro and Leyla Seyfullah of the Department of Palaeontology at the University of Vienna, in collaborations with colleagues from the National Museum of Natural History in Stockholm and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem have investigated an almost 100 year old mystery that illuminates the origin of the most successful group of plants on Earth. “Looking within old collections with novel methods and concepts, we were able to identify a plant from the Late Triassic period that showed an unique set of leaf characters, as member of a much larger group that evolved similar traits with flowering plants without experiencing the same evolutionary success,” explains palaeobotanist Mario Coiro.

“Although the 201 million year old fossil leaves of Furcula granulifer show the net-like hierarchical veining of leaves typical for most plants today, we found out that it is actually part of the now extinct group of seed ferns, so it seems that this typical leaf-form that allows efficient photosynthesis, has evolved several times during earth history,” confirms Leyla Seyfullah, head of the research group “Palaeobotany and terrestrial palaeoecology” at the University of Vienna.

Plant revolution driven by leave evolution

Flowering plants, more specifically known as angiosperms, are the most important group of plants on Earth today, dominating most of the terrestrial ecosystems and being indispensable for human survival. Their appearance during the Cretaceous (145 — 66 Million years ago) revolutionized terrestrial biodiversity, leading to the radiation of other groups such as mammals, insects, and birds, and leading to an increase of overall diversity on Earth.

This Angiosperm Terrestrial Revolution was in part driven by a unique innovation in angiosperm leaves: these present a netted hierarchical venation, which allows angiosperm to fix carbon dioxide in a much more efficient way. “Among the few other fossil plants having similar venation to angiosperms, the fossil leaf Furcula granulifer from the Late Triassic of Greenland bears such striking similarities that it was originally described as an angiosperm leaf, predating the oldest record of the group by more than 50 Million years,” says Coiro. Although this claim was not widely supported by the scientific community, the real affinities of Furcula were not reinvestigated for almost 100 years.

Seeing with new eyes

Based on both historical material and newly investigated material, the team re-evaluated the affinities of Furcula based on both micromorphology and the anatomy of the impermeable coating surrounding leaves (the cuticle). By combining traditional microscopy and novel methods (Confocal Laser Scanning Miscroscopy), they suggest that Furcula was a relative of an extinct group of seed plants with fern-like leaves (“seed ferns”), the Peltaspermales, and that its angiosperm-like venation is a result of convergent evolution. Moreover, unlike angiosperms, the leaves of Furcula did not reach high densities of veins, and thus were not as efficient as angiosperm leaves in fixing carbon.

Failed experiments during the Triassic and Permian

The authors suggest that Furcula represented a failed attempt during the Late Triassic at convergence towards the efficient leaves that angiosperm will later evolve in the Cretaceous, since Furcula and its relatives went extinct probably during the Jurassic without reaching even a fraction of the angiosperm diversity.

The authors also identified another group of mysterious seed plants, the Gigantopteridales, as another failed attempt during the Permian period (approx. 300 million — 250 million years ago). “Through these natural experiments we have the opportunity to understand the true reason of the flowering plant success, which probably lie in the evolution of multiple traits rather than a single key innovation,” explains Seyfullah from the University of Vienna.

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