In my alternate Earths, the plant class Ginkgoopsida has retained its prehistoric diversity, unlike back home, in which only Ginkgo biloba remains.

In order for that diversity to be possible in the modern day, what advantages would the Ginkgo have over the broad-leaved deciduous angiosperms?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm puzzled about the downvote on this question… sure, it requires knowledge of biology instead of physics or simple logic, but… I hope this is not a problem? $\endgroup$
    – o0'.
    Jun 21 '15 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'd strongly suggest you ask on a different stack exchange, one with more of a focus on evolutionary biology or botany. $\endgroup$
    – Fhnuzoag
    Jun 22 '15 at 12:28

In order for the plant class Ginkgoopsida to retain its prehistoric diversity, it would need to occupy the same ecological niche as the ancestors of the broad-leaved deciduous angiosperms.

So, the those prehistoric ginkos would most likely convergently evolve to be like those ancestors and then evolve from there to fill the niches that broad-leaved deciduous angiosperms occupy today.

That is assuming you want nearly no difference in history.

However, it is likely and/or possible that the predators of the ancient ginkos would evolve with the ginkos to take advantage of the growth of their food source, making them more vulnerable to predation and putting evolutionary pressures on the ginkos to evolved new survival strategies.

  • $\begingroup$ The fact that only one species of ginkgo exists in the 21st century should indicate that they at least have some edge over the angiosperms. $\endgroup$ Jun 22 '15 at 1:48

Ginkgoopsida probably was not that diverse even in the past. It was very widely spread, but all finds are fairly similar to modern Ginkgo, so calling it diverse is stretching it. Then again it is possible we only can recognize relatives similar to modern Ginkgo.

In any case the main issue that without human intervention would have condemned Ginkgo to extinction is its inability to compete in new areas. Ginkgo are pretty robust and can survive the competition quite fine in areas they are established in, but more modern plants utterly crush it then it comes to spreading to new areas or adapting to changes in environment.

Faster sexual maturation and maybe a bird based method of spreading the seeds might help. But I do not think birds existed when Ginkgo evolved. So fundamentally it all comes down to faster rate of evolution. Ginkgo have sexual reproduction, so that is okay, but it simply would need to reproduce faster.

So faster rate of reproduction would be the answer to this question? While it strictly speaking tells what advantage over modern Ginkgo, not over modern angiosperms, the Ginkgo would need to have, the Ginkgo would have the huge advantage of a long headstart over angiosperms, so they probably would have managed, if they had been able to adapt as fast as angiosperms. It is not like Ginkgo are somehow otherwise inferior as plants.


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