Scientists find World’s oldest Fossil forest

Scientists have discovered the remnants of world’s oldest fossil forest- an extensive network of trees around 386 million years old in a sandstone quarry in United States (US). According to the researchers from Binghamton University, and New York State Museum in U.S., the fossil forest in Cairo would have spread from New York all the way into Pennsylvania and beyond. The finding were published in journal Current Biology.

About World’s oldest Fossil forest

The researchers team, mapped over 3,000 square metres of forest at abandoned quarry in the foothills of Catskill Mountains in Hudson Valley, New York.  The forest is nearly 2 or 3 million years older than what was until now believed to be world’s oldest forest at Gilboa (or Gilboa Fossil Forest, also located in New York State). As per the researchers, the Cairo forest is older than the one at Gilboa because fossils were lower down in sequence of rocks that occur in the Catskill mountains.

Key Findings:

The findings throw a new light on evolution of trees and transformative role they played in shaping the world we live in.

The forest is being assumed to have been looked like a fairly open forest with small to moderate sized coniferous-looking trees with individual and clumped tree-fern like plants of possibly smaller size growing between them.

The research shows that the forest was home to at least two types of trees:- (1) Cladoxylopsids, a primitive tree-fern-like plants, lacked flat green leaves, and grew in vast numbers at Gilboa; while (2) Archaeopteris, had a conifer-like woody trunk and frond-like branches which had green flattened leaves.

A single example of a third type of tree was also uncovered, which remained unidentified but could possibly have been a lycopod. All these trees reproduced using only spores rather than seeds.

Researchers also reported an extensive network of roots which was more than 11 metres in length in some places and belonged to Archaeopteris trees.  It is these long-lived woody roots that transformed interactions of plants and soils and were pivotal to co-evolution of forests and atmosphere.




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