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a 300 million year old fossilized forest discovered
February 22, 2012 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Photographs of an almost perfectly preserved 298 million year-old fossilized forest discovered under a coal mine in China [pdf] (In Wuda, Inner Mongolia).

More about the discovery here: The ash layer was dated from around 298 million years ago, the beginning of the Permian period ( 299 to 251 million years ago). During that time, the planet’s continental plates were still coming together to form the super-continent Pangaea, and the first groups of mammals, turtles, lepidosaurs and archosaurs started to roam the Earth.
posted by nickyskye (27 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
There’s some good coming off China’s extensive coal exploitation.....

Not if you zoom in on the Wuda link a bit. I don't think those are clouds.
posted by three blind mice at 7:58 AM on February 22, 2012


a forest, under a coal mine
between the past and the present, a fine line
three hundred million years ago
hey that's the blink of an eye, now don't you know
hey that's the blink of an eye, now don't you know

the continental plates were shifting
the turtle's minds were drifting
they were trying to find something to eat, somehow
just the same as you're doing now
that's the blink of an eye, you know
just that's the blink of an eye, you know
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:01 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Incredible!
posted by Artw at 8:03 AM on February 22, 2012


The description was a little bit more than what the pictures delivered, but still great. It's a great post, just that "298 million year-old fossilized forest discovered under a coal mine" does a number on people like me with active imaginations.
posted by cashman at 8:23 AM on February 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


They're so beautiful. Works of art. I want.
posted by atomicstone at 8:24 AM on February 22, 2012


It's a great post, just that "298 million year-old fossilized forest discovered under a coal mine" does a number on people like me with active imaginations.

Yeah, I was totally expecting the terra cotta warriors, but with trees.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:30 AM on February 22, 2012 [25 favorites]


Shut up and enjoy the miracle!
posted by Mister_A at 8:34 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hey, where is the artist's rendering?
posted by univac at 8:35 AM on February 22, 2012


Nevermind, saw the second link, but was hoping for creatures too.
posted by univac at 8:36 AM on February 22, 2012


>Wuda, Inner Mongolia

..formally an island in the ocean at the time (which is crazy to think about)
posted by stbalbach at 8:56 AM on February 22, 2012


English really needs parentheses. By the time I realized that the link here wasn't to "(Photographs of an almost perfectly preserved 298 million year-old fossilized forest) discovered under a coal mine in China" but was rather "Photographs of (an almost perfectly preserved 298 million year-old fossilized forest discovered under a coal mine in China)", finding the latter was almost an anticlimax.

Although it seemed plausible that natural forces might create a camera (wide cave in a mountainside, small gap to the outside acting as pinhole, some kind of photosensitive chemical in the rock on the opposite side), I'd really been looking forward to finding out what had controlled the exposure time...
posted by roystgnr at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Really glad to see this here. I read about the discovery elsewhere, but it wasn't nearly as exciting without the pictures. Thanks.
posted by fake at 9:36 AM on February 22, 2012


I'm shutting up and enjoying the miracle!
posted by Specklet at 9:44 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our reconstructions for all plant individuals are based on the specimens we found, which often include crowns, stems, or branches with attached leaves.

they identified six groups of trees, some up to 80 feet high, with tree ferns forming a lower canopy. Remarkably enough, they had the good luck of finding nearly complete specimens of a group of trees...


Can someone help me out with what exactly they found/what it looks like now? When they say 80 ft. trees, does that mean a continuous (or many pieces) of an 80 ft. fossil? Is the whole thing like a vast bed of fossils all laid out (flat?) in a huge forest-sized area?

I appreciate the miracle, I just want to appreciate it more.
posted by Glinn at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


298 million years old. Wow. Can't wait until Santorum hears about this.
posted by Ber at 10:03 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


So why did these plants fossilize instead of becoming coal with that kind of time and pressure?
posted by Renoroc at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2012


It would be a strange experience for one of us to walk in that forest (via a handy time machine) because there would be no flowering plants, no deciduous trees, no grasses. It would look very strange.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:20 AM on February 22, 2012


Nevermind, saw the second link, but was hoping for creatures too.

Silly, the creatures escaped when the miners hit the strata. Which was nice for the creatures, if not so nice for the miners. The Chinese government is currently hushing things up, but we will be saying hello to our crinoid overlords soon enough.

Why rush things? They have been waiting for millions of years for apes with shovels....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:48 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]



298 million years old. Wow. Can't wait until Santorum hears about this.


It's in China, he'll claim it's a communist plot.
posted by KaizenSoze at 10:50 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't wait until Santorum hears about this.

It's no accident that you find more fossils the deeper you go and the closer to Obama's shariah-gay lover Satan you get.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wildly beautiful images.
posted by Doohickie at 10:57 AM on February 22, 2012


It would be a strange experience for one of us to walk in that forest (via a handy time machine) because there would be no flowering plants, no deciduous trees, no grasses. It would look very strange.

Actually, contemporary Wuda doesn't seem to have any of these things, either.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:25 AM on February 22, 2012


Metafilter: Shut up and enjoy the miracle!

Anyway, great post, very very cool. The colors are amazing. This sort of thing has gotten my juices flowing ever since I was a kid, and still do. Thanks!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to take anything away from the amazing fossils, but I was also fascinated by the large brown patch of earth 80-100 miles to the W-SW of Wuda.

When you first zoom in, it starts to look like very large dunes. Zoom in further, and a highly variable, incredibly textured landscape of smaller dunes and other geologic surface formations emerges. The few intermittent signs of civilization I could find within seemed to be near these colorful lakebeds, then I panned over this, and now I just can't stop wondering what the hell that is.
posted by bafflegab at 7:00 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


bafflegab, a wonderful google map tangent! The first thought that popped into my mind was "bauxite mine". But really, that's just a guess.

The general location of that mysterious whatever it is, is Alxa Zuoqi, which has a number of industries there. It's also due west of Mujingzi. The nearest name on the map is Chagan Prague Cafe Sumu, Inner Mongolia.

Those large dunes are called mega-dunes.
posted by nickyskye at 10:06 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Renoroc: "This forest . . . was embedded in an ash flow, and the plants were preserved by permineralization." Meaning that minerals filled the plant structures. They didn't get a chance to rot. Weren't soaking in moisture.
posted by Listener at 10:33 PM on February 22, 2012


Photographs of a 4000 year old fossilized forest placed under a coal mine in China by Satan

FTFY
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:42 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


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