Scientists Discover 50,000 Year Old Underwater Forest

Scientists Discover 50,000 Year Old Underwater Forest

Bald Cypress trees

An amazingly-well preserved Bald Cypress forest has been discovered off the coast of Alabama, offering scientists a glimpse at the distant past.

When you imagine a forest, you're likely thinking of a group of trees. Maybe a few bushes, some ground covering, and a deer or two. Generally this is how forests look, but what if one was completely submerged underwater? For 50,000 years? Obviously the deer would be unhappy with the situation, but you'd also expect the trees to have fallen apart, wouldn't you? And yet the one-half square mile forest of Bald Cypress trees recently discovered by scientists lying 60 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico is so well-preserved that divers claim they can still smell the trees' sap when cutting into them.

According to their findings, these trees have survived for so long in an undamaged state because 50,000 years ago they were buried under oxygen-free sediment which effectively froze the forest in time. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast a few years ago, scientists believe the forest was uncovered for the first time in tens of millennia. This however is a double-edged sword, as while it allows the forest to be examined, it also allows marine life the opportunity to biodegrade the entire place into its floating component parts. As a result, researchers have only a few short years to properly explore the primeval foliage.

The hope here is that by examining the forest, scientists will be able to glean useful information about the environment of the past. Bald Cypress trees can live for thousands of years (assuming nobody takes a chainsaw to them), and like all trees the rings that lie within their cores are very handy indicators of any climate change they may have survived. Fortunately for scientists, this particular forest is full of huge Bald Cypress tress. "These stumps are so big, they're upwards of two meters in diameter - the size of trucks," says University of Southern Mississippi dendrochronologist Grant Harley. "They probably contain thousands of growth rings."

LiveScience has a full feature on this discovery that we urge you to read. The tale of how scientists found these trees is entertaining enough by itself, and the science is captivating as well. It's not exactly "DNA-rich mosquitos trapped in amber" exciting, but give these scientists a break. It's not like they could tell you about America's secret dinosaur army even if they wanted to.

Source: LiveScience

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now we can clone food for our wooly mammoth overlords.

Earnest Cavalli:
It's not exactly "DNA-rich mosquitos trapped in amber" exciting, but give these sciencentists a break. It's not like they could tell you about America's secret dinosaur army even if they wanted to.

It's not because they don't want us to know, but so that the terrorists don't get a heads up. Otherwise they'd know they were being chased by a T-Rex instead of a large-but-harmless dog.

Thing is, those Cypress weren't bald when they were buried.

Wait, how did the divers smell the sap when they were underwater and - forgive me if I am ignorant of diving practises here - wearing diving masks? I'm guessing they meant when they took them back to the surface but the article makes it sound otherwise. Or maybe the sap is so smelly it got in to their air tanks.

CriticalMiss:
Wait, how did the divers smell the sap when they were underwater and - forgive me if I am ignorant of diving practises here - wearing diving masks? I'm guessing they meant when they took them back to the surface but the article makes it sound otherwise. Or maybe the sap is so smelly it got in to their air tanks.

In the original article it just says "The forest contains trees so well-preserved that when they are cut, they still smell like fresh Cypress sap, Raines said." so I'm guessin that means cutting samples after surfacing.
Anything else would be pretty much weird to say the least.

Quaxar:

CriticalMiss:
Wait, how did the divers smell the sap when they were underwater and - forgive me if I am ignorant of diving practises here - wearing diving masks? I'm guessing they meant when they took them back to the surface but the article makes it sound otherwise. Or maybe the sap is so smelly it got in to their air tanks.

In the original article it just says "The forest contains trees so well-preserved that when they are cut, they still smell like fresh Cypress sap, Raines said." so I'm guessin that means cutting samples after surfacing.
Anything else would be pretty much weird to say the least.

Yeah I guess that's more plausible than secret fishmen carrying out the work.

This is absolutely cool! It'll be interesting to see what findings come of it.

Earnest Cavalli:
...sciencentists...

Not meaning to be super-critical, but taking a little time to proof-read and edit before submission could go a long way to prevent little mistakes like this. Considering the high level of automation and integration of spelling and grammar checkers in software these days, a simple mistake like this, unfortunately, stands out all the more and has the appearance of laziness or impatience.

I have already seen this (the end) in the movies. Just waiting for the 50.000 year old bacteria/virus to spread and kill 99% of the world population.

Who wants to take a bet on exactly which kind of Lovecraftian monstrosity they're going to find preserved down there? My bet's on a good, old-fashioned Shoggoth

Do you know how awesome of an adventure videogame this would be?

You- the character are an underwater creature that's home is made up of forests that were once from the above world.

haha pretty freakin cool!

WaitWHAT:
Who wants to take a bet on exactly which kind of Lovecraftian monstrosity they're going to find preserved down there? My bet's on a good, old-fashioned Shoggoth

I'm hoping for Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. A slow burning mental collapse that affects anyone pulled in by it's charisma.

Earnest Cavalli:
Obviously the deer would be unhappy with the situation.

Obviously you've never heard of mer-deer. Like mer-men, but with less annoying singing.

That dive shop owner isn't very bright. I realise that divers can take things, but by not telling anyone he's given them much less time to work with.

How long until the logging/oil companies come after it?

ZOMG! I so love trees. THis would be just fantastic to see in the flesh as opposed to over the internet. I can only imagine how cool it would be to be the first to see a forest like this.

I wonder what it might look like, how tall the trees are?

I am geeking out and will now stop, but seriously!

This reminds me of the underwater forest/civilization map I made in Far Cry Evolution.

OT: Very very cool. It's always fun when we find something like this and realize just how much is under the sea that we have no idea about. (Bimini road for example)

Someone already mentioned mer-deer, so my original point in commenting has been taken from me ._.

Its a shame that they weren't fruit trees. I would love to taste a lemon or peach from before science and selective cultivation made them all wonky.

Like the tomatoes of today, they are terrible in most cases. You have to search for ones that actually have any flavor or nutritional value. I find the small purple ones the tastiest personally.

But those hypothetical sunken primordial lemons, guarded by the murderous mer-deer...they haunt my dreams.

Alright, now we just need to find a much older oxygen free zone with dinosaur DNA preserved in it and I can finally start my dinosaur riding classes in a few decades.

Dragonbums:
Do you know how awesome of an adventure videogame this would be?

You- the character are an underwater creature that's home is made up of forests that were once from the above world.

haha pretty freakin cool!

What you are describing already exists. It's called Aquaria.

kailus13:

WaitWHAT:
Who wants to take a bet on exactly which kind of Lovecraftian monstrosity they're going to find preserved down there? My bet's on a good, old-fashioned Shoggoth

I'm hoping for Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. A slow burning mental collapse that affects anyone pulled in by it's charisma.

Earnest Cavalli:
Obviously the deer would be unhappy with the situation.

Obviously you've never heard of mer-deer. Like mer-men, but with less annoying singing.

Mer-men living in an aquatic forest?
I don't know why you could call their singing 'annoying', for to me, it sounds more like AWESOME.

rhizhim:
now we can clone food for our wooly mammoth overlords.

Maybe pig and Mammoth DNA will splice and we can finally get poy belly elephants! :D

kailus13:

WaitWHAT:
Who wants to take a bet on exactly which kind of Lovecraftian monstrosity they're going to find preserved down there? My bet's on a good, old-fashioned Shoggoth

I'm hoping for Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos. A slow burning mental collapse that affects anyone pulled in by it's charisma.

Earnest Cavalli:
Obviously the deer would be unhappy with the situation.

I think forests is more Shub-Niggurath's game. And of course being submerged for thousands of years is more Cthuhlu's line of work. So I have to agree with Kailus and say it will be Shoggoths - and lots of them.

This should be a boon for dendrochronology. The limit of carbon-14 dating, iirc, is about 50,000 years. Hopefully this can be used to improve calibration.

The World's End is not until 23 August 2013 (at least in the USA), so we are fine until then. If anyone or anything tries to get between me and that movie, they/it will learn the true meaning of horror.

I agree that chainsawing underwater is pretty unlikely, but is a very cool idea for shark defense.

 

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