A large swath of a Carboniferous-aged forest has been found preserved in an Illinois coal mine.
The forest is composed of a bizarre mixture of extinct plants: abundant club mosses, more than 40 metres high, towering over a sub-canopy of tree ferns, intermixed with shrubs and tree-sized horsetails. Nowhere elsewhere on the planet is it possible to (literally) walk through such an extensive swathe of Carboniferous rainforest.
It was discovered by Dr Howard Falcon-Lang from the University of Bristol, UK, and US colleagues, in the underground workings of a coal mine, in Illinois, USA. The results of this work are published online today in Geology, by the Geological Society of America.
The fossilized forest was preserved following a major earthquake 300 million years ago. The quake caused the whole region to drop below sea level whereupon the forest became buried in mud, preserving it forever.
Also, the long-enigmatic fossil "plant" taxon Prototaxites has been determined to be a gigantic fungus, 20-feet tall, just as Francis Hueber suspected way back in 1919.
Lastly, as you may have heard, a rocky "earth-like" planet, designated Gliese 581 c, has been detected orbiting a red dwarf in the constellation Libra, more than 20 light years from Earth. Of course, one should keep in mind that this definition of "earth-like" would include the planet Mars, and calling the place "habitable" is probably a just a little rash. But it is an awesome discovery, even if it was also an inevitable one.
Okay. To bed with me, even if I can't find sleep.