“It was like discovering the botanical equivalent of dinosaur footprints,” said Dr. William Stein, associate professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University, and one of the article’s authors. “But the most exciting part was finding out just how many different types of footprints there were. The newly uncovered area was preserved in such a way that we were literally able to walk among the trees, noting what kind they were, where they had stood and how big they had grown.”
Scientists are now piecing together a view of this ancient site, dating back about 385 million years ago, which could shed new light on the role of modern-day forests and their impact on climate change.
The recent discovery was made in the same area in Schoharie County where fossils of the Earth’s oldest trees – the Gilboa stumps – were discovered in the 1850s, 1920 and again in 2010 and were brought to the State Museum. The Museum has the world’s largest and best collection of Gilboa fossil tree stumps. For decades scientists did not know what the trees connected to the stumps looked like. That mystery was solved when Linda VanAller Hernick, the State Museum’s Paleontology collections manager, and Frank Mannolini, Paleontology collections technician, found fossils of the tree’s intact crown in a nearby location in 2004, and a 28-foot-long trunk portion in 2005. The discovery of the 385-million-year-old specimens was named one of the “100 top Science Stories of 2007” by Discover Magazine. Stein, Mannolini, Hernick, and Dr. Christopher M. Berry, a paleobotany lecturer at Cardiff University in Wales, co-authored a Nature article reporting that discovery, as well as the most recent one. Working in conjunction with Stein, Mannolini also developed a sketch of the ancient forest.
Eospermatopteris, or “ancient seed fern.” In 1924, her paper about the stumps, together with the Museum exhibition, brought the “Gilboa forest” to the attention of the world. One of the Gilboa stumps will be on display in the Museum lobby, beginning March 2.
Following the discovery of the tree’s crown, a thorough investigation was conducted by Stein and Dr. Christopher M. Berry, a paleobotany lecturer at Cardiff University in Wales and the other co-author of both Nature articles. They were able to determine that these trees actually resembled modern-day cycads or tree ferns, but interestingly enough, were not related to either one. Many questions still remained about what the surrounding area looked like, whether other plant life co-existed with these trees and how.
In 2010, during ongoing repair of the Gilboa Dam, New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) engineers excavated infill from a quarry in Schoharie County. They agreed to allow researchers to re-examine the site where the fossils had been found when the dam was built in the 1920s. What they found this time was a large, substantially intact portion of the ancient forest horizon, complete with root systems. As they had expected, Eospermatopteris root systems of different sizes were the most abundant. But what they didn’t expect to find was the level of detail of the overall composition of the forest.
The first glimpse of the unexpected complexity of this ancient forest came when Stein, Berry, Hernick and Mannolini found the remains of large scrambling tree-sized plants, identified as aneurophytaleans. These plants were likely close ecological associates to the original trees, living among them on the forest floor like modern ferns, possibly scrambling into the forest canopy much as tropical vines do today. The aneurophytes are the first in the fossil record to show true “wood” and the oldest known group in the lineage that lead to modern seed plants.
Work on the new discoveries also pointed to the vital importance that the State Museum’s collections have played in the paleontological research. “Discovery of scrambling aneurophytaleans at Gilboa was a complete surprise, but pointed to the likelihood that similar material had already been found at the site, but was unrecognized,” said Hernick. “Sure enough in the State Museum collections a wonderful specimen, originally collected in the 1920s, provided additional key evidence.”
The team also came across a tree belonging to the class Lycopsida, or club mosses, which predates an earlier discovery made in Naples, NY and an ecologically important group in the history of land plants. The lycopsids are an ancient group of non-seed plants represented today by low growing forms such as the “running pines” of the northern hardwood forests of New York. They also inhabited swamps and ended up being much of the Pennsylvanian coal we burn today.
Based on the new research, the team now believes that the area probably enjoyed a wetland environment in a tropical climate. It was filled with large Eospermatopteris trees that resembled weedy, hollow, bamboo-like plants, with roots spreading out in all directions, allowing other plants to gain a foothold. Scrambling among these roots on the forest floor were aneurophytaleans, acting much like ferns do today, and possibly climbing into the forest canopy as vines. The lycopsids, although seemingly rare, may also have been very important in certain places although perhaps not yet as specialized inhabitants of swamps.
But what the research team believes is most important about this particular site is what it was doing to impact the rest of the planet. At the time the Gilboa forest began to emerge -- during the Middle Devonian period, about 385 million years ago – Earth experienced a dramatic drop in global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the associated cooling led ultimately to a period of glaciation.
“Trees probably changed everything,” said Stein. “Not only did these emerging forests likely cause important changes in global patterns of sedimentation, but they may have triggered a major extinction in fossil record.”
For Stein, it all comes down to one thing – how much we don’t know but need to understand about our ancient past. “The complexity of the Gilboa site can teach us a lot about the original assembly of our modern day ecosystems,” said Stein. “As we continue to understand the role of forests in modern global systems, and face potential climate change and deforestation on a global scale, these clues from the past may offer valuable lessons for managing our planet’s future.”
Binghamton University is one of the four university centers of the State University of New York. Known for the excellence of its students, faculty, staff and programs, Binghamton enrolls close to 15,000 students in programs leading to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. For more information, visit www.binghamton.edu
Founded in 1836, the State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.
Gail Glover | Newswise Science News
Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Am Dienstag, den 22. August wird das Forschungsschiff Polarstern im norwegischen Tromsø zu einer besonderen Expedition in die Arktis starten: Der autonome Unterwasserroboter TRAMPER soll nach einem Jahr Einsatzzeit am arktischen Tiefseeboden auftauchen. Dieses Gerät und weitere robotische Systeme, die Tiefsee- und Weltraumforscher im Rahmen der Helmholtz-Allianz ROBEX gemeinsam entwickelt haben, werden nun knapp drei Wochen lang unter Realbedingungen getestet. ROBEX hat das Ziel, neue Technologien für die Erkundung schwer erreichbarer Gebiete mit extremen Umweltbedingungen zu entwickeln.
„Auftauchen wird der TRAMPER“, sagt Dr. Frank Wenzhöfer vom Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI) selbstbewusst. Der...
Darüber, wie sich Blutzellen entwickeln, existieren verschiedene Auffassungen – sie basieren jedoch fast ausschließlich auf Experimenten, die lediglich Momentaufnahmen widerspiegeln. Wissenschaftler des Deutschen Krebsforschungszentrums stellen nun im Fachjournal Nature eine neue Technik vor, mit der sich das Geschehen dynamisch erfassen lässt: Mithilfe eines „Zufallsgenerators“ versehen sie Blutstammzellen mit genetischen Barcodes und können so verfolgen, welche Zelltypen aus der Stammzelle hervorgehen. Diese Technik erlaubt künftig völlig neue Einblicke in die Entwicklung unterschiedlicher Gewebe sowie in die Krebsentstehung.
Wie entsteht die Vielzahl verschiedener Zelltypen im Blut? Diese Frage beschäftigt Wissenschaftler schon lange. Nach der klassischen Vorstellung fächern sich...
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Er sieht aus wie ein Maiskolben, ist winzig wie ein Bakterium und kann einen Wirkstoff direkt in die Lungenzellen liefern: Das zylinderförmige Vehikel für Arzneistoffe, das Pharmazeuten der Universität des Saarlandes entwickelt haben, kann inhaliert werden. Professor Marc Schneider und sein Team machen sich dabei die körpereigene Abwehr zunutze: Makrophagen, die Fresszellen des Immunsystems, fressen den gesundheitlich unbedenklichen „Nano-Mais“ und setzen dabei den in ihm enthaltenen Wirkstoff frei. Bei ihrer Forschung arbeiteten die Pharmazeuten mit Forschern der Medizinischen Fakultät der Saar-Uni, des Leibniz-Instituts für Neue Materialien und der Universität Marburg zusammen Ihre Forschungsergebnisse veröffentlichten die Wissenschaftler in der Fachzeitschrift Advanced Healthcare Materials. DOI: 10.1002/adhm.201700478
Ein Medikament wirkt nur, wenn es dort ankommt, wo es wirken soll. Wird ein Mittel inhaliert, muss der Wirkstoff in der Lunge zuerst die Hindernisse...
Physikern der Universität Bonn ist es gelungen, optische Mulden und komplexere Muster zu erzeugen, in die das Licht eines Bose-Einstein-Kondensates fließt. Die Herstellung solch sehr verlustarmer Strukturen für Licht ist eine Voraussetzung für komplexe Schaltkreise für Licht, beispielsweise für die Quanteninformationsverarbeitung einer neuen Computergeneration. Die Wissenschaftler stellen nun ihre Ergebnisse im Fachjournal „Nature Photonics“ vor.
Lichtteilchen (Photonen) kommen als winzige, unteilbare Portionen vor. Viele Tausend dieser Licht-Portionen lassen sich zu einem einzigen Super-Photon...
18.08.2017 | Veranstaltungen
17.08.2017 | Veranstaltungen
16.08.2017 | Veranstaltungen