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New York


Near Gilboa, New York, Devonian aged limestones, shales, and sandstones provide windows into several different habitats. The first appearance of trees and a forest are found in the fossils of Gilboa (385 million years ago). Stumps with roots stretching out into a paleosol (fossil soil) have been preserved as sandstone casts at a site known as Riverside Quarry. The stumps were given the name Eospermatopteris and are now known to be a cladoxylopsid. Cladoxylopsids are thought to be ancestors of ferns and horsetails. Recently, two Gilboa trees with trunk and branching crowns were found lying prostrate. The trunk of the trees was identified as a cladoxylopsid of the genus Wattieza (Stein et al, 2007, pp 904-907). Illustrations combining Wattieza with Eospermatopteris give paleontologist an idea of what this Gilboa tree looked like in real life. Carbonized foliage at Riverside Quarry preserves arboresent and herbaceous lycopods, such as Lepidosigillaria and Leclercqia. Progymnosperms like Aneurophyton can also be found. In the Devonian, Riverside Quarry was a swampy forest near a coastline. A second location near Gilboa, known as Brown Mountain, is a lagerstatten, which preserves important animal fossils in what was once a tangled mass of Leclercqia (a herbaceous lycopod) and mud, which was located in a deltaic environment. Fossil foliage at Brown Mountain includes lycopods, progymnosperms, and cladoxylopsids. Animals preserved in the tangled Leclercqia mud mass at Brown Mountain include: eurypterids, scorpions, trigonotarbids (spider-like organisms), the first known spider, the first known pseudoscorpions, millipedes, and centipedes. A third site, called South Mountain, represents a deltaic environment like that found at Brown Mountain. Fossil foliage at South Mountain is a mix of lycopods, progymnosperms, and cladoxylopsids. Two types of fish are found at South Mountain, placoderms and acanthodians. Gilboa, like other Devonian aged fossil ecosystems, represents a primitive trophic structure that lacks herbivory; only predator-detritivore food chains existed at this time (Nudds & Selden, 2008, pp. 95-113).


Nudds J.R. & Selden P.A. (2008). Fossil Ecosystems of North America: A Guide to the Sites and Their Extraordinary Biotas. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Stein, W.E., Mannonlini, F, VanAller Hernick, L., Landing, E. & Berry, C.M. (2007). Giant cladoxylpsid trees resolve the enigma of the Earth's earliest forest stumps at Gilboa. Nature, vol 446: pp. 904-907.


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