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Plants established themselves on earth 440 million years back, say Chinese scientists

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Paleontologists and chemists have found geochemical evidence that complex plants colonized the Earth 444 million years ago, at the start of the Silurian period.

e. about 14 million years earlier than previously thought. This was reported by the press service of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A report published by the Academy says: “Paleochemists have used mercury isotope data in Paleozoic sediments to find out when the Earth was first inhabited by complex plants. Their analysis of paleosol sediments showed that this happened at least 444 million years ago, at the beginning of the Silurian period”.

No one knows what these first trees and forests looked like, so far only a few “petrified forests” are known, since solid trunks and some root systems have been preserved in the depths of their rocks. And the study of these fossils showed that early Paleozoic plants looked very strange. And the special light bark at that time played the role of leaves on the first trees, but in general they did not look like modern trees, but rather resembled giant corn cobs and reeds.

An international team of paleontologists and chemists led by Dr. Feng Xinbin, a professor at the Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has presented the first evidence that the ancestors of the first trees on Earth began to colonize the Earth much earlier than previously thought. The researchers made this discovery by studying the isotopic composition of the Silurian rocks.

The Chinese scientists also explained that they were mainly interested in the number of Hg-199 and Hg-200 atoms contained in these deposits. Plant leaves actively absorbed these isotopes from the atmosphere, so that the resulting sedimentary rocks contain much less Hg-199 and Hg-200 than similar minerals that arose in other parts of the Earth without vegetation.

Based on this hypothesis, Professor Feng Xinbin and his colleagues measured the proportions of Hg-199 and Hg-200 in rocks formed at different periods of the Paleozoic era, from the Cambrian stage (520 million years ago) to the Permian stage. (250 million years ago). Scientists’ measurements unexpectedly showed that low levels of Hg-199 and Hg-200 are characteristic not only of the Middle Devonian deposits, but also of rocks formed 444 million years ago, at the beginning of the Silurian period.

Source: TASS

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