By Cal Widdall
A 298-million-year-old forest has been discovered underneath a coal mine in Wuda, Inner Mongolia. A volcanic blast, believed to have happened 100km away, preserved the trees and plant life, thus earning the label ‘Chinese Pompeii’.
Whilst Pompeii gave us a snapshot of Roman life in 79AD, this ancient swampy forest has been characterised as a ‘time-capsule’ of plant life during the Permian period. Scientists have been able to ‘reconstruct’ an area of approximately 1,000sq meters with unprecedented detail, even producing images showing how the site appeared almost 300 million years ago.
There were no flowers during the Permian. Plants reproduced like ferns, using spores, and the first groups of mammals, turtles, lepidosaurs and archosaurs were just beginning to roam the earth. The period ended with the largest mass extinction ever, killing up to 90% of these species.
Standing on the northwestern edge of the supercontinent Pangaea, the forest was brimming with now-extinct plant life. Trees resembling giant q-tips towered above the canopy at twice the height of telephone poles, and vines crawled up out of the undergrowth.
No evidence has yet been released with regards to the trees’ sexually-liberalised lifestyle. Hopefully any freaky foliage positions they find won’t be reburied in an attempt at archaeological censorship.