A 359 to 372-million-year-old fossil of a fern-like plant that lived before dinosaurs and mammals stalked the Earth has been identified as a new species, 50 years after its discovery. The ‘stick-like’ relic was unearthed from the banks of Manilla river, New South Wales, after heavy flooding in 1964, and collected by amateur geologist John Irving. He gave it to the state’s geological survey, which left the fossil languishing in a drawer for decades before it was re-discovered by French palaeobotanists. They cut open the two-inch fossil, revealing rows of perfectly preserved cell walls. When these were compared to other fossil plants from the same period, the Late Devonian, scientists realised they were looking at a new species, and even a new genus, that shared similarities with modern-day ferns and horsetails. The find – christened Keraphyton mawsoniae – is particularly significant as fossils from the Late Devonian are extremely rare. Keraphyton mawsoniae was only identified from its two-inch fossil after the tiny stem was cut open, revealing rows of perfectly preserved cell walls When the fossil (left) and its cells (right) were compared to other plants living at the same time, during the Late Devonian, scientists realised they were looking… Read full this story
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