A 57 million year old sweet potato fossil was discovered in the East Garo hill district of Meghalaya by a group of scientists from the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleosciences (BSIP), Lucknow. They claim that it is older than the last recorded 40-million-old sweet potato fossil, which was found in Colorado, US.
The study has been published in the international scientific journal, ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.’
After the initial fossil identification study, it was found that the leaves were of sweet potato. A detailed research work began in 2000. The study showed that it belonged to the ‘morning glory’ family. The research was conducted at three herbariums in the country — National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, and Central National Herbarium, Howrah.
‘The sediment where the fossil was extracted was found to be 57 million years old, hence the fossil was also considered to be of the same date,’ said BSIP director Sunil Bajpai. He claimed that the study will help in understanding the evolutionary origins and the existing concepts of sweet potatoes. It will also help in understanding the climatic conditions and related factors that prevailed millions of years ago.
The three scientists from BSIP who conducted the study are Rakesh C Mehrotra, Gaurav Srivastava, and David L Dilcher from Indiana University, US