The earliest ancient forest was discovered in Xinjiang, about 400 million years ago. It witnessed the scene of fish climbing ashore

Recently, the oldest known forest in China was discovered in Xinjiang, with a history of 371 million years, more than 10 million years earlier than the large-scale emergence of ancient forests. What’s more surprising is that some plants here have survived since ancient times, although they are very different from their ancestors in the long process of evolution.

How did scientists find it?

As early as 2015, when the researchers of Nanjing Institute of Geology and paleontology of Chinese Academy of Sciences visited Xinjiang, they found the largest branch fern fossil in Junggar area west of Tacheng, with a diameter of 75 cm. According to paleontological studies, these plants can grow up to more than 4 meters, which is one of the oldest known trees, and it also means that they lived in the earth’s oxygen rich era, at least before and after the Devonian.

Since then, scientists have finally determined the age of these fossil plants through a lot of data analysis. They are actually 371 million years old and belong to the Devonian period. Through isotope detection, scientists found that this is a very large-scale ancient forest, even more than 10 million years earlier than the large-scale emergence of ancient forests.

How did this ancient forest come into being?

Here we will start from the Silurian, which is the last period of the early Paleozoic and the third period of the Paleozoic. The Silurian began about 440 million years ago and ended about 410 million years ago. People may not know much about the Silurian, but the Silurian is indispensable in the evolution of the earth.

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In the late Silurian, the strong crustal movement, the closure of the ancient Atlantic Ocean and the collision of some plates led to the rise of geosynclinal folds, the great changes of paleogeography, the disappearance of a large amount of sea water, the gradual formation of land and the expansion of continental area. As the sea receded, some plants that originally grew in the sea began to settle down on land. Gymnopteris also began to appear in the Silurian, which laid the foundation for the formation of ancient forests.

When entering the early Devonian period, there were many large tree ferns on the earth. By this time, the early forests had begun to take shape. By the end of the Devonian, ancient forests had appeared. As early as the Early Carboniferous, fern forests found in many parts of the world also appeared in this period. With the emergence of forests, the evolution of life on earth has begun to be officially rewritten.

The relationship between ancient forests and biological evolution?

With the change of geographical features, some animals that used to live in the ocean gradually climbed onto the land in order to get more food. Scientists in Canada near the Arctic have found an ancient fish fossil about 375 million years ago, which fills the evolutionary gap between aquatic and terrestrial animals.

The fish, known as Tiktaalik, has fins and scales of a fish, but its skull looks like an alligator, and its neck and ribs are similar to those of a land animal.

The researchers who found it said that the fish is a collection of characteristics of terrestrial animals, representing the transition from aquatic animals to terrestrial animals. It indicates that the evolution of terrestrial organisms and fish is closely related. It is precisely because of the emergence of ancient forests that the world is so vibrant and rich in biological species.

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