Scientists have discovered remnants of the world's oldest fossil forest in of all places, a sandstone quarry in Cairo, New York.
It is believed the extensive network of trees is around 386 million years old and spread into Pennsylvania and beyond.
This is not the first time New York had the oldest forest, the nearby Gilboa forest, 20 miles away, had the previous record at a few million years younger. Scientists analyzed 3,000 square meters of the forest at the abandoned quarry in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley and say that the forest was home to at least two types of trees: cladoxylopsids, primitive tree-fern-like plants, which lacked flat green leaves, and which also grew in vast numbers at Gilboa; and Archaeopteris, which had a conifer-like woody trunk and frond-like branches which had green flattened leaves. A single example of a third type of tree was also uncovered, which remained unidentified but could possibly have been a lycopod.
All these trees reproduced using only spores rather than seeds.
The team also reported a 'spectacular' and extensive network of roots which were more than eleven meters in length in some places which belonged to the Archaeopteris trees.
It is these long-lived woody roots, with multiple levels of branching and small, short-lived perpendicular feeder roots, that transformed the interactions of plants and soils and were therefore pivotal to the co-evolution of forests and the atmosphere, the researchers state.
Until this point in time, trees such as the cladoxylopsids only had ribbon-like and mostly unbranched roots which had to be constantly replaced as the plant above ground grew.
They believe the forest was eventually wiped out by a flood due to the presence of many fish fossils that were also visible on the surface of the quarry.