A strange tree 350 million years old that looks like it is from another planet

A strange tree 350 million years old that looks like it is from another planet

The millions-year-old fossil offers a glimpse into a world in which trees may have looked markedly different from those that fill forests and line streets today.

Most trees have been found in the fossil record spanning more than 400 million years with only their trunks preserved. However, this rare fossil also contains leaves that reflect the unusual shape of the tree’s canopy. The abundant long, spiky leaves form a pom-pom-like formation around the spindle stem suggesting something out of the whimsical fantasy of Dr. Seuss or… symbol picture CGI artists.

The tree is a “strange growth form in the history of life,” said Robert Gastaldo, a paleontologist and sedimentologist at Colby College and co-author of a new study on the discovery published in the journal. Current biology. The tree, called Sanfordiacaulis densifolia, comes from a period in our planet’s history when healthy trees remained extremely rare. Plants shed their leaves, branches and reproductive structures, which are more decomposed and recycled.

“We can count the number of late Paleolithic fossil plants on one hand where tree trunks are preserved with crown leaves attached,” Gastaldo said in an email.

Scientists found the fossilized tree in New Brunswick, Canada, with more than 250 partially preserved leaves around its trunk, each protruding about 5.7 feet. Scientists estimate that each leaf grew approximately 3.3 feet before it expired. This means that the dense canopy of leaves extends at least 18 feet from spiraling branches around a trunk about 6 inches in diameter.

“It’s amazing to say the least,” said Gastaldo, who likens the tree’s shape to an upturned toilet brush.

“One of the evolutionary experiments”

The tree was located in a “sub-canopy zone” between ground-level plants and taller trees. Its unusual shape allowed it to capture maximum light and reduce competition for resources from ground cover plants below, researchers say. This strategy suggests that early Carboniferous plant life was more complex than expected, and plants were “experimenting” with different developmental forms and growth structures.

“It’s one of those evolutionary experiments during a period when forest plants underwent biodiversity, and this form appears to be short-lived,” Gastaldo said.

Study co-authors Olivia King and Matthew Stimson found the tree’s first fossil, a partial specimen, seven years ago in an active quarry within UNESCO’s Stonehammer Global Geopark, a site with a rich geological record. The following years brought the discovery of additional Sanfordiacolis fossils nearby, which scientists dated using spores from the surrounding rocks.

Researchers say the fossils survived in this amazing form because of a catastrophic earthquake that triggered a landslide that buried and buried trees and other plants along a rifted lake. Rift lakes result when the ground sinks due to underground movement.

All but one of the fossils analyzed for the study currently live at the New Brunswick Museum of Natural History, where they are available to the public for viewing by humans and the Lorax.

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(tags for translation) The Wild Tree

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