Scientists have discovered the oldest forest fossil, 385 million years old, at an abandoned quarry in New York State. The findings were recently reported in a study in the academic journal Current Biology. The paper notes that the fossils found come from a tree with trunks and leaves, similar to today’s trees. It is one of only three known mud basin fossil forests to date, and pushes the record of the world’s oldest forest fossils forward by 2 to 3 million years.
The fossil was first discovered by a staff member at the New York State Museum when he saw a huge root structure in the quarry. The paper’s co-author, Chris Berry of cardiff university’s School of Earth and Marine Sciences, said he first saw the “tree roots” with a bit of doubt, thinking it was only the contemporary trees that grew in the rocks and then the trunks were removed. When they studied the soil profile, the researchers quickly confirmed that the “root” was much older.
Researchers suspect that a huge flood destroyed the forest, but the roots of the forest were preserved in fossil form. This speculation is supported by other fossil evidence: between the roots of the tree, there are fossils of fish.
The forest is a long time old, and it is more than 140 million years before dinosaurs begin to appear in the world. At that time, the forest’s main inhabitants were creatures called bipedal worms, as well as other primitive insects that might or may not have begun to fly.
“These fossil forests are very rare. “To really understand how trees start to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we need to know the earliest forests. “
Since the emergence of forests, the earth’s ecological environment has changed greatly. Studies have shown that a sharp drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the mud basin period caused the Earth to cool, which may have led to a mass extinction of species at the end of the period.
William Stein, the paper’s first author and a professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University in the US, said this was the opposite of the rise in carbon dioxide levels we face today and could become extinct.
So in that sense, history is important, Says Stein. If we look at the origins of these forests and their effects, especially the plants themselves and what they are doing, we may have a deep understanding of the processes that are taking place today.