In a quarry in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, scientists found five fossils of trees “buried” during an earthquake 350 million years ago.
This is stated in a study published in the journal Current Biology. The authors note that these new and unusual “fossil” trees not only have an amazing shape, but also reveal details about a period of life on Earth, about which little is known, writes CNN.
“These are time capsules, small windows into ancient landscapes and ecosystems“, says Robert Gastaldo, a paleontologist and sedimentologist who led the study.
Scientists discovered the first ancient tree in 2017 during field research at a quarry in New Brunswick. One of the trees found is more than 400 million years old. Scientists named the identified species of fossils “Sanfordiacaulis”.
|A unique preserved tree “Sanfordiacaulis”. PHOTO: Matthew Stimson
These trees were probably 5 meters tall and had a crown diameter of almost 6 meters, which greatly astonished paleontologists.
According to the study, the forms of these previously unknown 350-million-year-old plants are somewhat similar to modern ferns or palm trees. But while the tops of ferns or palms have few leaves, the recently discovered fossil tree specimen had more than 250 leaves preserved around its trunk, with each partially preserved leaf about 1.7 meters long.
|Visualization “Sanfordiacaulis”: Tim Stonecypher
According to Stimson, assistant curator of geology and paleontology at the New Brunswick Museum, the unique tree fossils are likely related to a “catastrophic” landslide caused by an earthquake that occurred in an ancient rift lake.
According to Peter Wilf, professor of earth sciences and paleobotanist at Pennsylvania State University, this find is more rare than dinosaur fossils.
“The tree fossils found are a major milestone in our understanding of how the structure of the early forest evolved, eventually leading to the complex rainforest architecture that supports most of Earth’s living biodiversityWilf remarked.
According to King, a researcher at the New Brunswick Museum, this tree grew during the late Paleozoic era, when plants and animals “diversified, starting to make their way from water to land.”
Fossils like “Sanfordiacaulis” are not only useful in helping people understand how life changed, they can help scientists figure out where life on our planet might be going next.
Scientists note that the existence of this particular species indicates that plants, like early invertebrates, “experimented” with how they adapted to their environment.
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