Some forests in this world are very old while others are surprisingly young. The Congo tropical rainforest and the sprawling boreal forests of Siberia and Canada are only around 10,000 years old. The oldest tropical rainforest in the world today may be the Daintree rainforest in Australia (Daintree is a very rewarding rainforest near the Great Barrier Reef to visit).
But recent evidence for the world's oldest prehistoric forest is in upstate New York. This fossilized forest is another discovery forcing researchers to reassess their assumptions and models of ancient history. Ancient history is fascinated and for those interested in ancient biological history, consider seeing these "living fossils" around the world - some of which have barely changed since the times of the ancient forests of New York.
New York's Ancient Prehistoric Forest
New evidence according to a new study published in Current Biology suggests it could be as old as a mind-bending 385 million years old. That is old, super old. It predates the time of the Dinosaurs (the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic periods). It's older than the Carboniferous period and stretches deep into the Devonian period.
- Age: Up to 385 Million Years
- Dinosaurs: Lived 140 Million years After The Cairo Forest
This ancient New York rainforest has been discovered in an old abandoned quarry in Cairo around 40 miles south of Albany. The researchers have found fossilized roots of long prehistoric trees.
This is very early in the evolution of life on the earth's land. It's around 140 million years before the first dinos and only around 15 or so from the earliest known insects. In these times, the world was a very different place, and this area of land that is now New York would have been around 30 degrees south of the equator. The climate would have been arid and temperate.
Forests Of Gilboa, NY, and Cairo, NY - Forrests Of Transition
This find in Cairo, New York predates what had previously been thought to have been the oldest fossilized forest in Gilboa, New York. Although in relative terms they are around the same age (with Cairo being two to three million years older).
- Location: Cairo 40 Miles South Of Albany
- Gilboa: Previously The Oldest Forest
But these two forests are very different. the forests at Gilboa seem to have been more primitive trees and were likely related to ferns and horsetails instead of true trees. The ancient forests at Gilboa didn't have deep woody roots.
The site is a valuable insight into a world long gone and a period of time that marked a major transition.
What To Expect Of the Fossils Found At Cairo, NY
"The Cairo site is very special. You are walking through the roots of ancient trees, Standing on the quarry surface we can reconstruct the living forest around us in our imagination."
The roots form a stunning 11-meter wide horizontal radial pattern and the trees appear to belong to a type of tree called Archeopteris (a type of tree with large woody roots and woody branches with leaves).
- Fossils: Large Root-Like Structures
- Roots: Up to 15 Centimeters (5 Inches) in Diameter
- Size: The Roots Form 11 Meter (Yard) Wide Horizontal Radial Patterns
The forest was found by people from New York State Museum and they were struck by the sheer size and scale of the root systems.
It seems that the old quarry has not yet been made open to the public. Hopefully, it will be possible to visit in the future. This ancient petrified forest at Petrified Forest National Park. One can see pictures of the forest by Cairo on CNN's article about the forest.
If one would like to visit, one can visit the neighboring Gilboa Fossil Forest. There is also the Gilboa Museum there about the ancient Devonian period.
- Opening Hours: 12:00 to 4:30 PM (Weekends June to October)
- Address: 122 Stryker Rd, Gilboa, NY 12076
What The Forest Was Like At The Devonian Period
The cause of the destruction of the ancient forest is hypothesized to have been a catastrophic flood. It is thought that the flood destroyed the trees while preserving their root systems as the fossils they are today. Other fossil discoveries near the largest of the trees have included prehistoric fish.
- Destruction: Possibly A Catastrophic Flood
What is remarkable about this find is that it preserves a transitional period as forests grew to cover and take over the earth.