Image of the Day: 400-million-year-old plant

Credit: UC Berkeley

The Devonian, a geological period that took place about 400 million years ago, is best known as the Age of the Fishes. And there was certainly an incredible amount of fish diversity that occurred. At the same time, however, plants began to take a serious interest in this new thing called dry land. Trees and ferns hadn't figured themselves out yet, but a prehistoric sort of plant called a lycopod (which sported primitive hook-like leaves) was probably crawling all over the ground, forming tangled mats of vines. The picture above is a digital reconstruction by UC Berkeley grad student Jeff Benca of a fossil lycopod that was squished into a rock 375 million years ago:

To put the age of this plant in perspective, it lived and died way, way, way before dinosaurs, the earliest of which showed up a mere 230 million years ago. The only other thing on land besides plants during the early Devonian were arthropods (primitive insects), the largest of which was likely a scorpion. It's relatively rare for something as fragile as a plant to be preserved in such good condition from so long ago, but the perspective that it gives us on the history of life is a fascinating one.

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UC Berkeley, via io9

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