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Sierra Daily

Mar 05, 2012

Coal Mine Yields Treasures

PermianSierra Daily generally doesn't get very excited about people digging up enormous Chinese coal mines (or enormous coal mines in Montana to send to China). But look what they've found under a coal mine near Wuda, China: a 298-million-year-old forest, near-perfectly preserved in ash from the volcano that engulfed it (and prevented it from turning into just more climate-changing coal). The discovery is described in scientific detail in PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and in layperson's language here in Gizmodo. What makes this "Permian Pompeii" so extraordinary is that the ash preserved not only branches of trees and bushes, but the entire trees and bushes in relation to the rest of the forest. Now the pictures are starting to dribble out, as here at Inhabitat--some even retaining a green tinge. Above, an artist's rendering of the early Permian forest, featuring 80-foot Sigilaria, a now-extinct species. Many more wonders likely remain to be discovered: Thus far, just over 10,000 square feet have been excavated of a site that covers more than 7 square miles.  

--Paul Rauber / Illustration by Ren Yugao, PNAS


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