Recently, a team of scientists has discovered some interesting tree fossils that are about 374-million years old. They come from some of the oldest forests that have existed on this planet. Those findings are described in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and according to them, those trees were ripping themselves apart as they were growing up. The research might also shed some light on the evolution of the climate in Earth as well as on how those ancient forests were like.
The experts discovered those tree fossils, called Xinicaulis lignescens, in Xinjiang, China. They are reportedly part of the Cladoxylopsida species that don’t have any descendants. However, they have traits in common with the ancestors of what we know today as horsetails and ferns. Those trees were about 12 meters tall, and usually had a base that was 1 meter wide. In shape, they were resembling the palm trees that exist today.
Ancient trees were ripping themselves apart
The Cladoxylopsida species was part of some of the oldest forests that grew on this planet. Those existed during the Devonian period, about 372 million of years ago. And apart from some insects and bugs that were eating the dead plant matter, those trees were not threatened by anyone. There were millions of those trees, whereas vertebrates were only then beginning to roam the Earth.
Those trees and some other ancient plants helped our planet become the way we see it now. They shaped the rivers and pulled carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. According to Christopher Berry, the co-author of this study, putting such trees and plants in forests on a seemingly empty planet can drastically change it.
And those ancient trees that no longer exist might be the key to better understanding how the Earth’s climate has evolved over time. Because those trees had a different structure and were empty inside, experts didn’t know how they were able to grow. But those fossils revealed that mystery. Tiny trees were growing inside their trunks, and when they were too big, the outer trunk would rip itself apart. This is how that wide base was also formed.
Image source: wikimedia
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