Ancient fossil forests discovered in Asia

Commonly known as Tiktaalik, the Devonian period existed 419 million to 359 million years ago. It is known as the ‘age of fishes’ and represents the lobe-finned fish, depicted for pulling itself on land.

Evolutionary progress was also witnessed among plants during this era. Current research has drawn special attention to an example of Devonian forest; it consists of 250,000 square meters and comprises of fossilized lycopsid trees. According to sources, these trees were discovered near China’s Xinhang in Anhui province. The recently discovered forest has been the most recent example of fossil forest in Asia, it is believed to be larger than Grand Central Station.

Research concludes the fossilized trees- Lycopsids available in the Xinhang forest were similar to the palm trees. They had branchless trunks and leafy crowns. Moreover, they grew in the coast environmental which was prone to flooding. The lycopsid trees were believed to be less than 3.2 meters tall. Among them the tallest was estimated to be 7.7 meters, which is taller than the height of an average giraffe.

Among these tree species, giant lycopsids were frequent in Carboniferous period, which followed Devonian. These later became coal which is mined today. The Xinhang forest also became the source for depicting the early root system, which later became essential in determining their height. The research draws attention to two other Devonian fossil forests, these were found in the United States and Norway.

The fossilized trees were found within the walls of Jianchuan and Yongchuan clay quarries, above and below a four meter thick sandstone bed. Some of these fossils included structures similar to those of pinecone with megaspores. Owning to the study, the diameters of fossilized trunks were used to examine the trees’ heights. Researchers draw special attention to the difficulty in marking and counting trees, without missing any.

According to Deming Wang, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Sciences at Peking University, the Xinhang lycopsid forest resembled the mangroves along the coast, based on their similarity with the environment and their comparable ecological roles.

“Jianchuan quarry has been mined for several years and there were always some excavators working at the section. The excavations in quarries benefit our finding and research. When the excavators stop or left, we come close to the highwalls and look for exposed erect lycopsid trunks,” commented Wang. The professor also gets credit for having found the first collection of fossil trunks in the mine in 2016. “The continuous finding of new in-situ tree fossils is fantastic. As an old saying goes: the best one is always the next one,” he added.