Tasmania/35,000 Year Old Tree Fossil

Julie Boyd from Global Learning Communities in Tasmania, Australia, mailed me the following newspaper clipping with a note that said, "Quite a bit of information is starting to emerge here which links Australia (and particularly Tasmania) to Gondwanaland, and this fossil is causing great excitement."

by Claire Braund

"The discovery of a 35-million-year-old fossil of a monster plant in North- West Tasmania is "stunning new evidence" of the existence of a Gondwana supercontinent, scientist have claimed.

A team of researchers from the University of Tasmania found the fossilized foliage of the giant conifer, fitzroya tasmanensis, on the Lea River in the Cradle Mountain area about 18 months ago.

Currently the tree, which has a base diameter of up to five metres, grows only in Chile in South America.

Head of the Department of Plant Science in Hobart, Professor Bob Hill, said that until the discovery in Tasmania there had been no reason to predict that the fitzroya had grown anywhere else in the world except South America.

Prof. Hill, who is recognized as a world authority in the area of macrofossils, led the team of University of Tasmania researchers that found the fossilised plant.
He said that while the find was not totally unexpected, it was a stunning confirmation of the existence of a supercontinent known as Gondwana.

He said the discovery of the fossil showed that once upon a time common forests ranged across Gondwana.

These forests could have included the closely related Tasmanian king billy pine, fosssilised remains of which were found near those of the fitzroya.

Prof. Hill said that the discovery would help researchers establish why one species died out and the other survived when the both had similar climatic requirements.

He will go to Chile in January to present his findings at the second Southern Connection conference."

Return to Main Page

June Julian jj68@nyu.edu