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Cool fossil find shows trees were very different hundreds of millions of years ago

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  • Cool fossil find shows trees were very different hundreds of millions of years ago

    The new find is being described as looking like something Dr. Seuss would have come up with.

    The remains of five 350myo trees preserved in 3-D have been uncovered in Canada near the bottom of an active rock quarry in Valley Waters, New Brunswick (in a part of the Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark. It comes from the time that fish were moving out onto land that paleontologists call "Romer's Gap" due to the paucity of data we have from this period.

    Of the trees one happens to preserve almost the entire tree from its branches and crown leaves down to its trunk, so this one is particularly important given how exceedingly rare that is.

    They have been named Sanfordiacaulis densifolia, with the first or genus name being a combination of the names of the quarry where it was unearthed and it's owner, Laurie Sanford. The species is derived from the dense arrangement of tree's leaves

    The researchers determined that its trunk was approximately 6" (15.24 cm) in diameter and stood roughly 10' (3 meters) tall and had more than 250 leaves that were about 5.7' (1.73 meters) long and attached to 2.5' (0.76 meters) long branches arranged in a tightly packed, non-Fibonacci spiral, meaning the trunk supported a canopy with an approximate diameter of 18' (5.48 meters).

    What's more, the trunk wasn't made of wood and bark but instead consisted of fern-like vascular material.

    The researchers think that this incredibly top-heavy plant probably was designed to allow for the maximum amount of sunlight to be absorbed in a forest's sub-canopy zone (the space between the tallest and shortest trees and plants) and remained upright by intertwining its branches with the branches of other types of trees.


    Source: Rare ancient tree discovery has scientists ‘gobsmacked’


    The unique preservation of the Sanfordiacaulis densifolia tree, where the trunk is surrounded by more than 250 spirally arranged leaves,
    was the result of earthquakes in a 352-million-year-old rift-lake system, now exposed in New Brunswick, Canada.



    Trees are believed to have originated hundreds of millions of years ago. Ever since, evidence of these ancient plant sentinels has been in short supply.

    Now, a new discovery of uniquely 3D tree fossils has opened a window into what the world was like when the planet’s early forests were beginning to evolve, expanding our understanding of the architecture of trees throughout Earth’s history.

    Five tree fossils buried alive by an earthquake 350 million years ago were found in a quarry in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, according to a study published Friday in the journal Current Biology. The authors said these new and unusual fossil trees not only bear a surprising shape reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss illustration, they reveal clues about a period of life on Earth of which we know little.

    “They are time capsules,” said Robert Gastaldo, a paleontologist and sedimentologist who led the study, “literally little windows into deep-time landscapes and ecosystems.”

    Coauthors Olivia King and Matthew Stimson unearthed the first of the ancient trees in 2017 while doing fieldwork in a rock quarry in New Brunswick. One of the specimens they discovered is among a handful of cases in the entire plant fossil record — spanning more than 400 million years — in which a tree’s branches and crown leaves are still attached to its trunk.

    Few tree fossils that date back to Earth’s earliest forests have ever been found, according to Gastaldo. Their discovery helps fill in some missing pieces of an incomplete fossil record.

    “There are only five or six trees that we can document, at least in the Paleozoic, that were preserved with its crown intact,” said Gastaldo, a professor of geology at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

    Most ancient tree specimens are relatively small, he noted, and often discovered in the form of a fossilized trunk with a stump or root system attached. For his colleagues to find a preserved tree that could have been 15 feet tall in its maturity with an 18-foot diameter crown left the paleontologist “gobsmacked.”



    This model rendering of the newly discovered Sanfordiacaulis tree includes simplified branching structure for easier visualization



    Ancient earthquake burial

    The researchers excavated the first fossil tree about seven years ago, but it took another few years before four more specimens of the same plant were found in close proximity to one another. Dubbed “Sanfordiacaulis,” the newly identified species was named in honor of Laurie Sanford, the owner of the quarry where the trees were unearthed.

    The forms taken by these previously unknown 350 million-year-old plants look somewhat like a modern-day fern or palm, per the study, despite the fact that those tree species didn’t appear until 300 million years later. But while the tops of ferns or palms as we know them boast few leaves, the most complete specimen of the newly discovered fossils has more than 250 leaves preserved around its trunk, with each partially preserved leaf extending around 5.7 feet (1.7 meters).

    That fossil is encased in a sandstone boulder and roughly the size of a small car, according to Stimson, an assistant curator of geology and paleontology at the New Brunswick Museum.

    The unique fossilization of the cluster of trees is likely due to a “catastrophic” earthquake-induced landslide that took place in an ancient rift lake, he said.

    “These trees were alive when the earthquake happened. They were buried very quickly, very rapidly after that, at the bottom of the lake, and then the lake (went) back to normal,” Stimson said.

    Finding complete fossil trees is rare and much less common than finding a complete dinosaur, according to Peter Wilf, a professor of geosciences and paleobotanist at Pennsylvania State University who was not involved with the study. Wilf noted via email that the “unusual” new fossil tree was a relic of a time period from which there are almost no tree fossils.

    “The new fossils are a milestone in our understanding of how early forest structure evolved, eventually leading to the complex rainforest architectures that support most of Earth’s living biodiversity,” Wilf added.

    ‘Very Dr. Seuss’

    To King, a research associate at the New Brunswick Museum who found the group of fossils, the Sanfordiacaulis would have looked like something plucked straight out of Dr. Seuss’ most popular works.

    “You know in ‘The Lorax,’ the trees have these big pom-poms at the top and narrow trunks? These probably have a similar structure. You have this massive crown at the top, and then it does narrow and paper into this very small trunk,” King said. “It’s a very Dr. Seuss-looking tree. It’s a weird and wonderful idea of what this thing could look like.”

    But the reign of the Sanfordiacauliswas short-lived, the researchers said. “We do not see this architecture of plant again,” Stimson told CNN. He noted that it grew in the early Carboniferous, a time period at the end of the Paleozoic Era when plants and animals were diversifying as they started to make their way from water to land.

    Much of evolution is experimental, with success often measured by a species’ versatility, or ability to adapt to many different places and conditions. The peculiar set of tree fossils presents proof of a “failed experiment of science and evolution,” Stimson added. “We’re really starting to paint that picture as to what life was like 350 million years ago.”

    Looking forward

    Fossils such as the Sanfordiacaulis are not just useful in helping humans understand how life changed in the past, they can help scientists figure out where life on our planet might be headed next.

    The existence of this particular species suggests that trees of the period were starting to occupy different ecological niches beyond what was previously understood, according to the researchers behind its discovery.

    Gastaldo sees this as an indication that plants — much like early invertebrates — were experimenting with how they adapted to the environment. The earthquake that likely led to the trees’ fossilization also offers new geological evidence of what may have been occurring in Earth’s systems at the same moment in time.

    “This is really the first evidence we have of (a tree) that would be between what grows on the ground and what would tower way above the ground,” Gastaldo said. “What else was there?”


    Source

    © Copyright Original Source




    The full paper, Enigmatic fossil plants with three-dimensional, arborescent-growth architecture from the earliest Carboniferous of New Brunswick, Canada is available by clicking the hyperlink although I made the "abstract" available here as well

    Summary

    The evolution of arborescence in Devonian plants, followed by their architectural radiation in the Carboniferous, is a transition fundamental to Earth-system processes and ecological development. However, this evolutionary transition in trees is based on preserved trunks, of which only a few known specimens possess crowns. We describe Mississippian-aged (Tournaisian) trees with a unique three-dimensional crown morphology from New Brunswick, Canada. The trees were preserved by earthquake-induced, catastrophic burial of lake-margin vegetation. The tree architecture consists of an unbranched, 16-cm-diameter trunk with compound leaves arranged in spirals of ∼13 and compressed into ∼14 cm of vertical trunk length. Compound leaves in the upper ∼0.75 m of the trunk measure >1.75 m in length and preserve alternately arranged secondary laterals beginning at 0.5 m from the trunk; the area below the trunk bears only persistent leaf bases. The principal specimen lacks either apical or basal sections, although an apex is preserved in another. Apically, the leaves become less relaxed toward horizontal and are borne straight at an acute angle at the crown. The compact leaf organization and leaf length created a crown volume of >20–30 m3. This growth strategy likely maximized light interception and reduced resource competition from groundcover. From their growth morphology, canopy size, and volume, we propose that these fossils represent the earliest evidence of arborescent subcanopy-tiering. Moreover, although systematically unresolved, this specimen shows that Early Carboniferous vegetation was more complex than realized, signaling that it was a time of experimental, possibly transitional and varied, growth architectures.






    I'm always still in trouble again

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  • #2
    QRbwv-1653670813-17075-list_items-question_1.jpg

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    • #3
      Right height. Needs longer leaves and a spindly trunk and it would be a dead ringer

      I'm always still in trouble again

      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
      "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
        Right height. Needs longer leaves and a spindly trunk and it would be a dead ringer
        Well, it's a cartoon, so...

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
          The researchers determined that its trunk was approximately 6" (15.24 cm) in diameter and stood roughly 10' (3 meters) tall and had more than 250 leaves that were about 5.7' (1.73 meters) long and attached to 2.5' (0.76 meters) long branches arranged in a tightly packed, non-Fibonacci spiral, meaning the trunk supported a canopy with an approximate diameter of 18' (5.48 meters).
          Mocking the math gods, neatly explaining its extinction.

          (The Fibonacci spiral yields maximum area coverage at minimum cost.)

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Juvenal View Post

            Mocking the math gods, neatly explaining its extinction.

            (The Fibonacci spiral yields maximum area coverage at minimum cost.)
            Due to a lack of competition this was an era of innovation resulting in some pretty unusual models springing up.

            I'm always still in trouble again

            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
            "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

            Comment


            • #7
              I believe the British found a forest 390 million years old. In general it is likely that his was the Age of the beginning of forests,

              Source: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/other/earth-s-oldest-forest-is-discovered-near-a-butlin-s-in-somerset-fossilised-woodland-dates-back-390-million-years-beating-the-previous-record-holder-in-new-york-by-4-million-years/ar-BB1juqpy#:~:text=Scientists%20from%20the%20University%20of,more%20than%20four%20million%20years.




              Earth's oldest forest is discovered near a Butlin's in Somerset: Fossilised woodland dates back 390 million years - beating the previous record holder in New York by 4 million years

              Scientists from the University of Cambridge and University of Cardiff discovered the fossil remains of an ancient forest that once stretched across Devon and Somerset.

              This fossil forest is believed to date back 390 million years, beating the previous record holder in New York by more than four million years.

              Lead author Professor Neil Davies from the University of Cambridge, said: 'People sometimes think that British rocks have been looked at enough, but this shows that revisiting them can yield important new discoveries.'

              Story by Wiliam Hunter

              © Copyright Original Source



              Last edited by shunyadragon; 03-08-2024, 03:28 PM.
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              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

              go with the flow the river knows . . .

              Frank

              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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