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Fossil forest update: “Pretty sophisticated” for nearly 400 million years ago

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Earlier today, we talked about the 385-year-old fossil forest. Here’s some other coverage:

“Archaeopteris seems to reveal the beginning of the future of what forests will ultimately become,” said Stein. “Based on what we know from the body fossil evidence of Archaeopteris prior to this, and now from the rooting evidence that we’ve added at Cairo, these plants are very modern compared to other Devonian plants. Although still dramatically different than modern trees, Archaeopteris nevertheless seems to point the way toward the future of forests.”

Stein and his team were also surprised to find a third root system in the fossilized soil at Cairo belonging to a tree thought to only exist during the Carboniferous Period and beyond: “scale trees” belonging to the class Lycopsida.

Binghamton University, “Modern trees emerged earlier than previously believed, new research reveals” at Eurekalert

“This pushes … (the origins) of this kind of root system back in time,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill paleobotanist Patricia Gensel, who was not involved in the study, told Smithsonian magazine. “By the mid-Devonian, we have pretty sophisticated trees. Before this, we never would’ve been able to say that.”

Ryan W. Miller, “World’s oldest fossil forest, 385 million years old, uncovered in New York, study says” at USA Today

“It is surprising to see plants which were previously thought to have had mutually exclusive habitat preferences growing together on the ancient Catskill delta,” said Berry, speaking to the fact that some of the plants were similarly observed in Gilboa.

“This would have 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.”

Madison Dapcevich, “Scientists Unearth World’s Oldest Forest In A New York Quarry” at IFLScience!

The presence of fish fossils suggests that a flood killed off the forest.

Here’s the paper in Current Biology. (open access)

See also: World oldest known fossil forest just found at 385 million years ago From the Devonian era but much like today’s forests. Funny the way those sudden transitions occur, just as if they were spring loaded or something…

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