World’s oldest fossil forest discovered in New York City quarry

It is considered to be the oldest fossil forest ever discovered near Cairo, New York State. The forest, about 386 million years old according to the researchers, is in fact at least 2-3 million years older than the fossil forest of Gilboa, also located in New York State about forty kilometers from Cairo.

The new discovery was announced through a study published in Current Biology. It is a very important discovery because it will help to clarify the currently misunderstood aspects of the evolution of trees and when they appeared on Earth and when they began to thicken into larger and larger groups to form the forests we know today.

The researchers, led by a team of scientists from Binghamton University, the New York State Museum and Cardiff University, were able to make the discovery by mapping more than 3,000 square meters of what was a dense forest hundreds of millions of years ago, an area that today lies at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, right in the Hudson Valley.

This forest was mainly represented by two species of trees, the cladoxylopsids, a group of plants considered ancestors of today’s ferns and horsetails, and the Archaeopteris, a plant with a woody trunk similar to today’s conifers. The researchers also discovered a third type of plant that has not yet been identified, but which could be an example of lycopodium, a perennial vascular plant.
All these plants, in any case, reproduced by spores instead of seeds.

The same researchers also identified a network of woody and very branched roots that they defined as “spectacular” and which was very extensive, roots mostly belonged to Archaeopteris plants.
The end of this forest should have been decreed by a flood: the researchers found several fish fossils.

According to Chris Berry, a researcher at Cardiff University who participated in the research, it was a “fairly open” forest with coniferous trees of small to moderate size surrounded by numerous ferns.

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