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Mid-Devonian Archaeopteris roots signal revolutionary change in earliest fossil forests

Mid-Devonian Archaeopteris roots signal revolutionary change in earliest fossil forests
Mid-Devonian Archaeopteris roots signal revolutionary change in earliest fossil forests
The origin of trees and forests in the Mid Devonian (393–383 Ma) was a turning point in Earth history, marking permanent changes to terrestrial ecology, geochemical cycles, atmospheric CO2 levels, and climate. However, how all these factors interrelate remains largely unknown. From a fossil soil (palaeosol) in the Catskill region near Cairo NY, USA, we report evidence of the oldest forest (mid Givetian) yet identified worldwide. Similar to the famous site at Gilboa, NY, we find treefern-like Eospermatopteris (Cladoxylopsida). However, the environment at Cairo appears to have been periodically drier. Along with a single enigmatic root system potentially belonging to a very early rhizomorphic lycopsid, we see spectacularly extensive root systems here assigned to the lignophyte group containing the genus Archaeopteris. This group appears pivotal to the subsequent evolutionary history of forests due to possession of multiple advanced features and likely relationship to subsequently dominant seed plants. Here we show that Archaeopteris had a highly advanced root system essentially comparable to modern seed plants. This suggests a unique ecological role for the group involving greatly expanded energy and resource utilization, with consequent influence on global processes much greater than expected from tree size or rooting depth alone.
0960-9822
421-431.e2
Stein, William E.
26e1caeb-94c9-4c44-9822-c9bc22bb4e8c
Berry, Christopher M.
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Morris, Jennifer L.
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Hernick, Linda Vanaller
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Mannolini, Frank
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Ver Straeten, Charles
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Landing, Ed
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Marshall, John E.a.
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Wellman, Charles H.
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Beerling, David J.
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Leake, Jonathan R.
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Stein, William E.
26e1caeb-94c9-4c44-9822-c9bc22bb4e8c
Berry, Christopher M.
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Morris, Jennifer L.
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Hernick, Linda Vanaller
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Mannolini, Frank
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Ver Straeten, Charles
c6aac06f-91cc-4e0a-aa3b-595b319e57b8
Landing, Ed
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Marshall, John E.a.
cba178e3-91aa-49a2-b2ce-4b8d9d870b06
Wellman, Charles H.
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Beerling, David J.
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Leake, Jonathan R.
dc0d8e92-8016-4519-9440-917f699fd2b6

Stein, William E., Berry, Christopher M., Morris, Jennifer L., Hernick, Linda Vanaller, Mannolini, Frank, Ver Straeten, Charles, Landing, Ed, Marshall, John E.a., Wellman, Charles H., Beerling, David J. and Leake, Jonathan R. (2020) Mid-Devonian Archaeopteris roots signal revolutionary change in earliest fossil forests. Current Biology, 30 (3), 421-431.e2. (doi:10.1016/j.cub.2019.11.067).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The origin of trees and forests in the Mid Devonian (393–383 Ma) was a turning point in Earth history, marking permanent changes to terrestrial ecology, geochemical cycles, atmospheric CO2 levels, and climate. However, how all these factors interrelate remains largely unknown. From a fossil soil (palaeosol) in the Catskill region near Cairo NY, USA, we report evidence of the oldest forest (mid Givetian) yet identified worldwide. Similar to the famous site at Gilboa, NY, we find treefern-like Eospermatopteris (Cladoxylopsida). However, the environment at Cairo appears to have been periodically drier. Along with a single enigmatic root system potentially belonging to a very early rhizomorphic lycopsid, we see spectacularly extensive root systems here assigned to the lignophyte group containing the genus Archaeopteris. This group appears pivotal to the subsequent evolutionary history of forests due to possession of multiple advanced features and likely relationship to subsequently dominant seed plants. Here we show that Archaeopteris had a highly advanced root system essentially comparable to modern seed plants. This suggests a unique ecological role for the group involving greatly expanded energy and resource utilization, with consequent influence on global processes much greater than expected from tree size or rooting depth alone.

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19/12/Stein_Berry_Morris_D_19_01750_R1 - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 22 November 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 19 December 2019
Published date: 1 February 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 438383
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/438383
ISSN: 0960-9822
PURE UUID: 2c989890-44cd-48cc-a12a-8269d933ddc6
ORCID for John E.a. Marshall: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9242-3646

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Date deposited: 09 Mar 2020 17:30
Last modified: 28 Apr 2022 04:15

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Contributors

Author: William E. Stein
Author: Christopher M. Berry
Author: Jennifer L. Morris
Author: Linda Vanaller Hernick
Author: Frank Mannolini
Author: Charles Ver Straeten
Author: Ed Landing
Author: Charles H. Wellman
Author: David J. Beerling
Author: Jonathan R. Leake

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