A recent discovery about ancient trees has baffled the scientific world. After analyzing the fossil of a tree dating back from Ancient China, researchers found it displayed a more intricate internal structure than trees today. However, they couldn’t find an explanation for this unusual anatomy.
The cladoxylopsid had an intricate internal structure
The object of the scientists’ study was the fossil of a cladoxylopsid tree, found in the northwestern part of China. Although the trunk was 374 million years old, its fossils were incredibly well preserved. This allowed for a thorough analysis, which revealed the complex structure hiding beneath the bark.
Trees need to transport water and nutrients from the root to the leaves, so they all have some woody conductors called xylem. The older a tree gets, the more xylem layers it accumulates, so they are responsible with producing the well-known tree rings. However, this structure hasn’t always been present in trees.
This unusual cladoxylopsid tree had xylem, but they were not spread all over the trunk. The conductive layers were present only in the outermost 5 centimeters in the trunk, while the rest of it was completely hollow.
The ancient tree could rip off its skeleton but still remain alive
All xylem formed a complex network, and each individual conductive strand developed its own growth rings. In fact, each xylem behaved like a tree. Also, the tree got thicker in diameter with the development of each individual xylem. If these strands became too thick, they were able to rip the outer bark apart, while the tree remained alive.
This is the first time when scientists observe such a behavior in trees. Other fossils of cladoxylopsid trees weren’t as well preserved as this one, so they have to terms of comparison. Therefore, the question to why primordial trees were more complex remains unanswered at the moment. The study on the intricate fossil has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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