Monday, April 23, 2007

Fossilized Rainforest Preserved in Coal Mine

Scientists called it a natural Sistine Chapel with the frescoes consisting of fossilized leaves, intserspersed with pillar-like trunks of trees long dead. Estimated to be 300 millin years old, the forest is mainly exposed on the ceiling of the mine shaft.

William DiMichele, curator of fossil plants at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History says "It was an amazing experience. We drove down the mine in an armored vehicle, until we were a hundred meters below the surface. The fossil forest was rooted on top of the coal seam, so where the coal had been mined away the fossilized forest was visible in the ceiling of the mine.”

Pictured is pteridosperm, an extinct seed-producing fern-like plant. It is courtesy of Howard Falcon-Lang. The unique find is located in Vermillion County, just south of Danville, Illinois in the US.

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