Three-dimensional fossils of trees older than dinosaurs reveal that the forests of 350 million years ago were strange and exotic. They were part of a small forest that was buried after the earthquake.
Trees are an essential part of life on Earth, but they weren’t always here. The first trees appeared about 400 million years ago in the Devonian period, when plant life began to diversify and colonize land.
However, the trees of that time were very different from those we know today, and we know very little about their shape and structure, as most of the fossils preserved are only stems and roots, with a few leaves and branches in the layers. Are crushed in the middle. rock.
But now, a team of researchers has discovered a rare fossil that shows a three-dimensional view of an ancient tree species that sprouted about 15 million years after the first trees sprouted.
The fossil, found in a block of stone 2.3 meters long and 2 meters wide, is housed in the New Brunswick Museum, Canada, and was excavated from a New Brunswick quarry in 2017 by paleontologists at the museum. olivia king this Matthew Stimson,
The block preserves the remains of five-branched plants that grew side by side, showing the arrangement of their upper leaves in astonishing detail.
He explains, “The way this tree produces very long leaves around its thin stem, and the sheer number of them on a small section of the stem, is astonishing.” Robert Gastaldo A geologist from Colby College in the United States who led research on the fossil. This study was published in the journal Current Biology.
Although palm trees would not appear until a few hundred million years later, the plant’s long, glossy leaves are currently classified as sanfordiacaulis densifolia, will bear a superficial resemblance to something you might find in a desert or tropical island. Albeit with a disturbing alien presence.
As the Devonian gave way to the Carboniferous, plants that we can vaguely recognize as conifers, cycads, and ginkgos emerged and grew. However, based on scant descriptions, it is more difficult to guess the most mysterious plants of that period.
Strange way of life
“We all have a mental concept of what a tree looks like, depending on where we live on the planet, and we have a vision of what we’re familiar with,” says Gastaldo.
“The fossil we are reporting is unique and reflects a rare evolutionary form in the history of life. It is one of the experiments of evolution during a time when biodiversification of forest plants occurred, and This is a form that appears to be of short duration”.
The small grove, which probably grew next to a lake in an earthquake-prone area, is believed to have been buried by the earthquake, causing nearby plants and other vegetation to become buried in fine soil.
Researchers estimate that these trees could reach about 3 meters in height, if not more, with a thick arrangement of leaves that extend 2 to 3 meters from the trunk and a dense canopy of leaves in a crown up to 30 meters high. Makes quantity. Social class.
Researchers say the three-dimensional fossil provides a unique insight into the morphology of 350 million-year-old trees, and could help us better understand the evolution and ecology of the first land plants.
It also reminds us that life on Earth has taken incredible and diverse forms throughout its history, and there is still much to learn about our plants’ past.