It’s been more than 65 million years since dinosaurs last roamed the earth. Since then, there have been plenty of different plant species that have come and gone. But believe it or not, there are a few prehistoric plant species from the dinosaur era that are still around—and scientists just discovered one in the United States for the first time.
The plant is called Lychnothamnus barbatus, and it is a green alga that serves as food for fish and other aquatic organisms, according to Science Alert. It has been spotted in Europe and Australia in the past, but between 2012 and 2016, it was found in more than a dozen lakes in Wisconsin and Minnesota as well. Scientists used DNA analysis to identify it, and they now think that its presence in North America might mean that there are other prehistoric plants lurking nearby as well.
At this point, scientists aren’t sure how the Lychnothamnus barbatus ended up in North America.
One theory suggests that it may have traveled to the U.S. in the ballast water that’s used to steady ships making the trip across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe. There’s also a chance that it has been in the U.S. all along, and no one had discovered it until now. The botanists who discovered the ancient algae suspect that it could be in other parts of North America as well, and further study could help researchers to understand how the species has been able to survive for so long despite all the changes that the earth has undergone over the last several billion years.
It just goes to show that no matter how much we learn about plant life, there are still plenty of surprises out there just waiting to be discovered.