Imagine a Fossilized Forest that existed long before dinosaurs and then mankind roamed the earth. A team of geologists has just discovered the remnants of 280-million-year old fossil forest in Antarctica. The evidence suggests that the trees survived through extreme periods of total darkness and uninterrupted sunlight.
Scientists Erik Gulbranson and John Isbell of the University of Wisconsin trekked across the Transantarctic Mountains during the summer, where the discovered the fossils among the rocks. The pair of geologists suggests this is the oldest polar forest ever discovered on the continent. The pair had previously discovered fossil fragments of 13 trees between 260 and 300 million years old, indicating that the trees existed before the first dinosaurs.
“People have known about the fossils in Antarctica since around 1910 but most of the region remains unexplored,” Dr. Gulbranson told reporters at The Independent. Gulbranson also noted that the polar forest emerged where plants are unable to grow today, meaning the trees were much more resilient than the ones we’ve come to know.
“These trees could turn their growing cycles on and off like a light switch. We know the winter shutoff happened right away, but we don’t know how active they were during the summertime and if they could force themselves into dormancy while it was still light out,” he commented.
What we do know is that the trees were likely living for about seven months in absolute darkness, followed by almost five months of continuous light. The team is now trying to determine what led to the mass extinction of the forest.