A team of paleontologists and geologists from around the world has discovered a fossilized rainforest with amazingly preserved roots, pollen, and other fossilized vegetal material that are approximately 90-million-year-old in West Antarctica.
An Eventful Era
The newly discovered Rainforest dating back to the mid-Cretaceous period is one of the most impressive findings of the year for a set of reasons.
First of all, the mid-Cretaceous period saw the pinnacle of dinosaurs. Still, climate was also at the warmest point it was over the past 140 million years, with temperatures in the tropics reaching as high as 35 degrees Celsius.
Also, sea level was about 170 meters higher than it currently is.
Professor Tina van de Flierdt, a researcher in the Department of Earth Science & Engineering at Imperial College London, is pleased by the discovery. However, she is surprised by the information that resulted from the fossils’ analysis:
“Even during months of darkness, swampy temperate rainforests were able to grow close to the South Pole, revealing an even warmer climate than we expected.”
The researchers stumbled upon a fragment of fossilized sediment which attracted their attention due to its peculiar color, according to Dr. Johann Klages, a geologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research:
“During the initial shipboard assessments, the unusual coloration of the sediment layer quickly caught our attention; it differed from the layers above it.”
The team then CT-scanned the core section. The results were more than surprising – A network of fossil roots that spanned 3 meters in length was discovered. It was preserved so well that individual cell structures were detected and analyzed.
The elevated sample contained numerous bits of pollen and spores from plants, including remnants of some of the first flowering plants ever discovered in the area.