Monday, April 1, 2024

A Devonian Forest

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, History of Science, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler

Reviewer Adrian Wolfson (The Washington Post) has accurately described Henry Gee's  A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters) as an "elegant romp through evolution." On my romp I was introduced to Devonian forests. Any image I had of them was wrong.

Gee writes that these forests "would not have looked like free forests of today, the cladoxylopsids, for example, were more like giant reeds, shooting hollow, branchless stems 10 meters (~32 feet) or so into the sky, terminating in brushlike structures like fly whisks."

This sent me to my usual sources: Wikipedia, YouTube and The Conversation. From that limited recon, I chose Christopher M. Berry, The Conversation for October 23, 2017. Berry 's bio.

Berry's essay includes great drawings, a discussion of the tree's structure, his use of a volcanic fossil and what it was possible to learn from it, and a video (3m 18s) in which the author discusses the tree, and"how they they grew will help us understand how cladoxylopsids shaped our early environments and how they interacted with the atmosphere."

Berry makes an observation that captures this unusual tree, "Cladoxylopsid growth has to go down in history as the most complex way to become a tree."

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