Huge fossilized rainforest found in coal mine

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Huge fossilized rainforest found in coal mine

Whats 40 meters high and 1 meter thick? Yes! Your're right, its a moss!

Researchers have uncovered a 300-million-yearold-fossilised rainforest, buried deep below ground in a coal mine in Illinois, US. It is by far the largest such forest ever found and provides an unprecedented look at the ecology of one of the world's earliest tropical forests.

Palaeobiologists from the US National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington DC, US, and the University of Bristol in the UK found a bizarre menagerie of extinct plants including club moss that grew a metre thick and more than 40 m high. The fossils were found nearly 100 metres underground at the Riola and Vermilion Grove mines in Vermilion County, Illinois.

The forest was buried in mud 300 million years ago when a large earthquake or other catastrophic event caused the entire region to suddenly drop below sea level. The fossilised forest lay preserved on top of a layer of coal that, when removed by miners, left the ancient forest visible on the mine ceiling.

"You're looking up at a ceiling a metre or two above your head with fossilised tree trunks and ferns scattered all around," says William DiMichele of the NMNH, who led the study. "You can walk through the mine looking up at this forest as if you were walking through a modern-day rainforest."

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By netchicken: posted on 24-4-2007

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