|Wolfgang Mackowiack, Univ Cologne, Germany
Transmission Electron Micro of Azolla Megaspore. Wiki Commons
OK enough flesh rippin' theropods and #dinomania#awesomebro- back to boring plants. And the plant I want to talk about today is little ol' Azolla a diminutive floating, aquatic fern. But don't let the dainty, petite structure of this fern fool you- this is a battle-tested, supercharged plant for the ages. And as you will see shortly some believe it helped reverse global warming.
Now I had heard a little about this fern before and given that I am interested in ferns, invasive species, and such it was with much interest that I came across a patch in a local drainage ditch in my neighborhood. As you can see from the pic below it is quite good at forming solid mats in still water.
|Wiki. Azolla In Australia
Rice paddies are often inoculated with Azolla to suppress weeds, limit mosquitos, and serve as a bio-fertilizer for the rice. The fern itself is exceptionally nutritious with proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Experiments as food stock for cattle, ducks, chickens, and pigs have met with success although it should be mentioned that when under feeding stress the plant produces deoxyanthocyanins which lowers polyunsaturated fatty acids in the fronds and therefore palatability.
But back to dinosaurs really quick- we do have records of Azolla going back well into the early Cretaceous. It should not have escaped your notice that this nutritious, fast growing plant could have served as ideal forage for herbivorous dinos. It does require us to put dinos back into the swamps however, at least for part time.
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