"Botanical Pompeii" discovered in Illinois mine
In the clammy depths of a southern Illinois coal mine lies the largest fossil forest ever discovered, at least 50 times as extensive as the previous contender.
Scientists are exploring dripping passages by the light of headlamps, mapping out an ecosystem from 307 million years ago, just before the world’s first great forests were wiped out by global warming. This vast prehistoric landscape may shed new light on climate change today.
Dating from the Pennsylvanian period of the Carboniferous era, the forest lies entombed in a series of eight active mines. They burrow through the rich seams of the Springfield Coal, a nationally important energy resource that underlies much of Illinois and two neighboring states and has been heavily mined for decades....
“It’s a botanical Pompeii, buried in a geological instant,” said William A. DiMichele, a paleobiologist and curator of fossil plants at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and one of the forest’s discoverers. He believes it was gently entombed by floods that successively washed through a swamp....
comments powered by Disqus
- Election results are in for the American Historical Association
- Nial Ferguson warns Obama’s bet on Iran has low odds of success
- Sven Beckert’s List of the Ten Books on Slavery You Need to Read
- Jonathan Zimmerman says homosexuality is not alien to Africa
- Historian Howard Segal says the cost of paying for expensive commencement speeches is diverting funds from where they’re most needed