The First Plants Appeared 500 Million Years Ago
British paleontologists have discovered that the first terrestrial plants appeared on Earth about 500 million years ago, with over 100 million years earlier than previously thought. Their article is published in PNAS.
"The appearance of plants on the Earth's surface has radically changed its climate and appearance, repeatedly accelerating the erosion of soils and rocks, sharply reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has led to cooling of the climate and other changes. We have proved that this happened in the middle of the Cambrian period, at the time when the first terrestrial animals appeared, "says Jennifer Morris of Bristol University.
Until recently, scientists believed that the first trees appeared in the middle of the Devonian period, some 400 million years ago. Their appearance suddenly changed the appearance of the whole planet, turning it into a green one, filling the atmosphere with a gigantic amount of oxygen, and also giving life to many new species of animals, including insects and mushrooms, mainly fed with plant biomass. Paleontologists still do not know what the first trees looked like. Only a small number of fossilized forests have survived to this day. Their study shows that these were pretty whimsical creatures. Instead of the leaves, they had a photosynthetic bark, and externally resemble dwarf trees in the modern tundra.
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