Top-Heavy : A fiossilized tree may have needed its neighbours' help to stand up.

In the prehistory of Earth, there is a blank chapter known as Romer's gap. Researchers have identified a hiatus in the tetrapod fossil record between 360 million and 345 million years ago, after fish had begun to adapt to land and more than 80 million years before the first dinosaurs.

While mysteries remain about evolution's experiments with living things during that 15-million-year gap, a fossilized tree described in a new paper offers greater insights on some of what was happening.

Named Sanfordiacaulis densifolia, the tree was six inches [ 15 centimeters] in diameter and its trunks was nearly 10 feet [ three meters tall ]. That trunk was composed, not of wood, but of vascular plant material resembling ferns.

And its crown had more than 200 finely striated, compound leaves emanating from spiral-patterned branches. Robert Gastaldo, a geology professor at Colby College in Maine who is an author of the new study, compared it to '' an upside - down toilet brush.''

Comically top-heavy, the tree most likely remained upright by intertwining its branches with those of nearby trees.

The fossil was unearthed near Valley Waters, New Brunswick, within Canada's Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark. [ Robin Catalano ]


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