BEACON TRANSCRIPT – According to a recently released study, the first trees that started growing on Earth were more complex than their modern-day counterparts, and at the same time, also rather bizarre.
Earth’s primordial trees seem to have had several hundred tree-like structures within them, which came to light as the trunk split open to grow.
Primordial Trees Tore Themselves Apart as Part of Their Growth Process?
This latest study is based on the discovery of the fossil specimens of 374 million years old trees. Unearthed in Xinjiang, China, in 2012 and 2015, they have been studied by scientists led by Hong-He Xu ever since.
The fossilized remains of the million years old trees were found to be part of the cladoxylopsids, a group of trees established to have existed somewhere around 393 million to 320 million years ago. Part of the Middle Devonian to Early Carboniferous periods, these trees are even older than dinosaurs. The volcanic environment also ensured that the preservation of these fossils, which offer far more details than previously discovered, similar such samples.
These latest remains of Earth’s primordial trees were found to be part of a new species, called the Xinicaulis lignescens or the “new stem becoming woody”.
These ancient trees were determined to have been hollow on the inside. In contrast, modern-day trees grow around a xylem, which adds a growth tree with each new year. Xylems are woody tubes that transport water from tree’s roots to its leaves and branches.
Xylems and Ancient Growing Methods
In primordial trees, the xylems were arranged in strands on the outer side of the trunk, and they were linked to each other by supportive strands. Basically, each tree had a mini-tree growing inside it. Each of the xylems also seemed to have its own growth rings.
As the rings started adding over the years, and the supportive web grew, the trees began getting larger, and the xylems started pulling. In doing so, they also pulled at their supportive network, and tore themselves apart from the others, becoming their own tree.
However, the supportive web also repaired themselves, so the process started all over again.
“What you see, basically, is the way that each individual strand is growing, and the fact that it’s slowly ripping itself apart but repairing itself at the same time. That’s the key to how this thing grew. It’s just incredibly complex,” states Christopher Berry, part of the study.
Berry revealed that he is planning to continue studying these bizarre and very complex primordial trees, ones that had a strange shape and the rather unique growing technique.
Current study findings are available in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Image Source: Wikimedia