The World's Oldest Wood --400 Million Years--Found
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August 12, 2011

The World's Oldest Wood --400 Million Years--Found

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Two 400-million-year-old fossil plants are the oldest known examples of wood --small herbs, 12 centimeters long, suggest that wood did not evolve to help plants grow tall, but rather improved the flow of water up the stems.

The fossils date from the early Devonian period, by which time simple plants had long colonised the land and begun diversifying. One was found in France and dates from 407 million years ago; the  the other, from Canada, is 397 million years old.

According to lead researcher Philippe Gerrienne of the University of Liège, Belgium, they predate the previous record-holders by at least 10 million years.

Trees would not evolve until about 385 million years ago, at which point they began scrambling to grow taller in order to capture more light. Wood was crucial for this, because it made their trunks sturdier.

Credits: Science/AAAS

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