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Oldest pine fossils reveal fiery past

Date:
March 10, 2016
Source:
University of Royal Holloway London
Summary:
The oldest fossils of the familiar pine tree that dominates Northern Hemisphere forests today has been found by researchers. The 140-million-year-old fossils (dating from the Cretaceous ‘Age of the Dinosaurs’) are exquisitely preserved as charcoal, the result of burning in wildfires.
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Scientists have found the oldest fossils of the familiar pine tree that dominates Northern Hemisphere forests today.

Scientists from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London have found the oldest fossils of the familiar pine tree that dominates Northern Hemisphere forests today.

The 140-million-year-old fossils (dating from the Cretaceous 'Age of the Dinosaurs') are exquisitely preserved as charcoal, the result of burning in wildfires. The fossils suggest that pines co-evolved with fire at a time when oxygen levels in the atmosphere were much higher and forests were especially flammable.

Dr Howard Falcon-Lang from Royal Holloway, University of London) discovered the fossils in Nova Scotia, Canada. He said: "Pines are well adapted to fire today. The fossils show that wildfires raged through the earliest pine forests and probably shaped the evolution of this important tree." Modern pines store flammable resin-rich deadwood on the tree making them prone to lethal fires. However, they also produce huge numbers of cones that will only germinate after a fire, ensuring a new cohort of trees is seeded after the fire has passed by."

The research is published in the journal Geological Society of America.


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Materials provided by University of Royal Holloway London. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Howard J. Falcon-Lang, Viola Mages, Margaret Collinson. The oldestPinusand its preservation by fire. Geology, 2016; G37526.1 DOI: 10.1130/G37526.1

Cite This Page:

University of Royal Holloway London. "Oldest pine fossils reveal fiery past." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310112118.htm>.
University of Royal Holloway London. (2016, March 10). Oldest pine fossils reveal fiery past. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310112118.htm
University of Royal Holloway London. "Oldest pine fossils reveal fiery past." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310112118.htm (accessed May 28, 2017).

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