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Ancient fossil forest unearthed in Arctic Norway

Reconstructed drawing of fossil forest in Svalbard. Credit: Image courtesy of Cardiff University

Reconstructed drawing of fossil forest in Svalbard.
Credit: Image courtesy of Cardiff University

Cardiff University via ScienceDaily:

UK researchers have unearthed ancient fossil forests, thought to be partly responsible for one of the most dramatic shifts in Earth’s climate in the past 400 million years.

The fossil forests, with tree stumps preserved in place, were found in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago situated in the Arctic Ocean. They were identified and described by Dr Chris Berry of Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Science.

Prof John Marshall, of Southampton University, has accurately dated the forests to 380 million years.

The forests grew near the equator during the late Devonian period, and could provide an insight into the cause of a 15-fold reduction in levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere around that time.

Current theories suggest that during the Devonian period (420-360 million years ago) there was a huge drop in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, thought to be largely caused by a change in vegetation from diminutive plants to the first large forest trees.

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Cloning Of Dinosaurs And Ancient Animals Proven Impossible

Humanity will never be able to resurrect the creatures of long ago. New research suggests that even under ideal conditions, DNA becomes unreadable after a mere 1.5 million years. Thus all the dino bones and amberized insects in the world are useless for cloning purposes, Scientific American writes:

Palaeogeneticists led by Morten Allentoft in Perth, Australia, examined 158 DNA-containing leg bones belonging to three species of extinct giant birds. By comparing the specimens’ ages and degrees of DNA degradation, the researchers calculated that DNA has a half-life of 521 years. That means that after 521 years, half of the bonds between nucleotides in the backbone of a sample would have broken; after another 521 years half of the remaining bonds would have gone; and so on.

The team predicts that even in a bone at an ideal preservation temperature of −5 ºC, effectively every bond would be destroyed after a maximum of 6.8 million years.

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Prehistoric Marine Reptile Fossil Found With Embryo Inside

PlesiosaurIt’s been a widely accepted fact that reptiles lay eggs. But did they always? New findings in a pleiosaurs’ fossil revealed that this marine reptile gave birth to live young. Via New Scientist:

Think less sea monsters, more doting parents: the long-necked plesiosaurs that roamed the seas during the dinosaur era gave birth to live young. They probably cared for their offspring and may even have lived in large social groups, like modern-day whales.

Plesiosaurs were reptiles, which as a group tend to lay eggs rather than giving birth. Other prehistoric marine reptiles were known to be exceptions to that rule, but until now fossil evidence that plesiosaurs did the same has been frustratingly elusive. “People have looked and looked,” says F. Robin O’Keefe of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Last year O’Keefe was called in to help prepare a fossil plesiosaur for display in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

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