National Geographic – The ancient trees were able to withstand alternating months of pure sunlight and darkness, before falling in history’s greatest mass extinction.
It was summer in Antarctica, and Erik Gulbranson and John Isbell were on the hunt.
Bundled up in parkas to brave negative temperatures, fierce winds, and blinding days of 24-hour sunlight, Gulbranson, Isbell, and an international team of researchers searched for fossil fragments. Between November 2016 and January 2017, they scaled the snow-capped slopes of the McIntyre Promontory high above the ice fields and glaciers, sifting through the Transantarctic Mountain’s gray sedimentary rocks for clues. By the end of the expedition, they had uncovered 13 fossil fragments from trees dating back more than 260 million years, around the time of the world’s greatest mass extinction event.
The fossil discovery hints at the coldest, driest continent’s green and forested past.
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