Oldest fossil forest in Asia discovered

Trees found in clay quarry walls existed between 359m and 419m years ago

Zamira Rahim
Thursday 08 August 2019 16:35 BST
The top view of a stem base in the oldest fossil forest in Asia
The top view of a stem base in the oldest fossil forest in Asia (PA)

The oldest fossil forest in Asia which existed between 359m and 419m years ago, has been discovered by scientists.

Dating back to the Devonian period, a geological era known as the age of fishes, it was found in the walls of clay quarries in China, near the town of Xinhang, in the country’s Anhui province.

It is made up of 250,000 square metres of fossilised lycopsid trees, an area as big as 35 football pitches.

Researchers said it is the largest example of a Devonian forest to ever be discovered. Two others have been found, in the US and in Norway.

The latest discovery is the oldest example of a forest in Asia, according to a study published in the Current Biology journal.

The trees which can be seen in the walls of the Jianchuan and Yongchuan clay quarries have branchless trunks and leafy crowns, similar to a modern day palm tree.

The study's authors believe the trees grew in coastal environments prone to flooding.

“It might also be that the Xinhang lycopsid forest was much like the mangroves along the coast, since they occur in a similar environment and play comparable ecologic roles,” said Deming Wang, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Sciences at Peking University.

Scientists found the trees above and below a 4m thick sandstone bed, within the quarries.

A reconstruction of the forest landscape (PA)

Structures which were similar to pine cones were also discovered.

“Jianchuan quarry has been mined for several years and there were always some excavators working at the section,” said Mr Wang. “The excavations in quarries benefit our finding and research. When the excavators stop or left, we come close to the high walls and look for exposed erect lycopsid trunks.”

The study’s authors acknowledged that it was difficult to mark and count all the trees without missing some details.

Additional reporting by agencies

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in