Scientists identify oldest wood specimens

Scientists identify oldest wood specimens
Image credit: University of Liege

( -- Researchers studying two fossilized plants, one from New Brunswick, Canada, the other from France have been identified as being 397 and 407 million years old respectively. Both are believed to be the oldest known examples of wood, predating previously found specimens by ten million years. Lead researcher Philippe Gerrienne, of Belgium, and his team have published the results of their research in Science.

The New Brunswick sample was found by co-author Patricia Gensel, who brought it back to the University of North Carolina where she is a professor of paleobotany. The remained on the shelf apparently for several years before it was included in a study being led by Gerrienne, (research associate and lecturer at the University of Liege) of the plant specimen found in France.

The two specimens are believed to be not just the earliest examples of wood found, but actual samples of wood in its earliest form of existence. Both were very small, just 20 centimeters tall (with stems just 12 centimeters tall and 3 to 5 centimeters wide) and were a type of herb.

After studying cross sections of the plants, the researchers have theorized that wood did not evolve as a means to allow plants to grow taller as has been widely assumed, but to allow for the more efficient transfer of water and nutrients from the soil to the rest of the plant. They say they believe this is so because of the way that cells are arranged in the cores of the stems, and even more so because of the existence of long thin cells that grow across several rings, extending like rays from the middle to outer edges of the stems; both are reminiscent of modern trees. The presence of thick walled cells adds to the evidence. Because these structures were in place in very small plants, it’s hard to argue that they evolved to allow for more height.

The authors suggest that because these plants were living in a time (the early Devonian age - 407 to 397 million years ago) when the amount of carbon dioxide in the air was decreasing (which reduced water-use efficiency) they were forced into coming up with something quick to survive; hence, the development of wood.

The plants discovered are believed to be the ancestors of modern trees, the that evolved to help in nourishment wound up having the side benefit of allowing the trees to grow into the comparatively mammoth specimens found around the planet today.

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More information: A Simple Type of Wood in Two Early Devonian Plants, Science 12 August 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6044 p. 837. DOI:10.1126/science.1208882

The advent of wood (secondary xylem) is a major event of the Paleozoic Era, facilitating the evolution of large perennial plants. The first steps of wood evolution are unknown. We describe two small Early Devonian (407 to 397 million years ago) plants with secondary xylem including simple rays. Their wood currently represents the earliest evidence of secondary growth in plants. The small size of the plants and the presence of thick-walled cortical cells confirm that wood early evolution was driven by hydraulic constraints rather than by the necessity of mechanical support for increasing height. The plants described here are most probably precursors of lignophytes.

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Citation: Scientists identify oldest wood specimens (2011, August 12) retrieved 17 October 2019 from
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Aug 12, 2011
Wow...mind blowing!

Aug 12, 2011
I wonder if it's politically correct to ask them to C14 date this wood at "397 & 407 million years" ??? Naaaa. Never happen. Just like evolutionists won't C14 the soft dinosaur tissue.

Aug 12, 2011
Why piss away money making a test that will come up negative while damaging an important fossil? The deposit it was found in was dated and that is enough. They were doing actual science not trying to prove something that is clear to all but the most tightly shuttered minds, that the world is much older than you tightly shuttered mind is willing to accept.

And why return after four months to show that evidence that the world is vastly more than 6000 years old is still something you refuse to accept?

And how do you explain the Egyptians never noticing that they had been drowned in the Great Flood? Where is actual evidence for that flood? Real physical evidence that MUST be pretty much everywhere.

Anytime you want to discuss this feel free. Hit and run posts like this show me that you must have recently been thinking that you might be wrong.


Aug 13, 2011
how about a age for a bit thats not fossilized?

Aug 13, 2011
Could you perhaps give us a clue as to what 'bit' you are talking about? For wood in form of trees they can't be C14 dated while alive but they can be tree ring dated. The oldest trees are a little over 4000 years old. The oldest bits of that same species, bristlecone pines, are around 8000 years, again by tree ring dating.

There is monoclonal bush in the California desert whose oldest dead parts at the center of the living parts are over 11,000 years old by C14 dating.


Oops I am bit behind.


That tree is 9550 years old by C14 dating of the dead parts which are genetically identical to the living parts. As a Californian I call that cheating. It is monoclonal.

This is the tree I was thinking of. No cheats its a single tree.



Aug 13, 2011
"Methuselah" was 4,789 years old when sampled in 1957
Which means it predates the Great Flood that clearly never happened or the tree would not be alive. Ma don't like this tree.

There is clonal aspen grove over 80,000 years old. Ma has gotta REALLY dislike that one.


Ma how about you surprise us this time and not run away from an interesting discussion. Make up for five months absence.


Aug 13, 2011
@mabarker - C14 dating can only be used to date material up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years old. These specimens are around 400 million years old.

Anyone commenting on science should understand the basics of that science or do some background reading beforehand. Wikipedia is generally pretty good for explaining these basics.

Aug 13, 2011
Mabarker is a creationist. Ma doesn't want to know about reality.

It has been 5 months since Ma's last hit and run post. For this Ma must say five 'La La La I can't hear you's' and five 'You don't know everything therefor the world is young's'.

And Ma isn't likely to reply. Almost never does.


Aug 16, 2011
Well I gave Ma four days to reply and I don't see one. So Ma gets a one. Something I promised quite a while ago. No reply then a one. Reply and then either nothing or maybe even a higher score than one.

And M_N if you can support those ones you gave me please feel free to do so. Otherwise you are just as gutless as Mabarker.


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