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Spectacular Fossil Forests Found In US Coalmine

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the sixteen-tons dept.

Earth 197

Smivs passes along a report up on the BBC about the fossil forests found in coal mines in Illinois. "The [US-UK] group reported one discovery last year, but has since identified a further five examples. The ancient vegetation — now turned to rock — is visible in the ceilings of mines covering thousands of hectares. These were among the first forests to evolve on the planet, [according to] Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang... 'These are the largest fossil forests found anywhere in the world at any point in geological time. It is quite extraordinary to find a fossil landscape preserved over such a vast area; and we are talking about an area the size of [the British city of] Bristol.' The forests grew just a few million years apart some 300 million years ago; and are now stacked one on top of another."

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197 comments

Note on Units (3, Funny)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953953)

Cities of Bristol is now an accepted measurement of area? And here I thought I was paying attention to SI conventions. How many libraries of congre

Re:Note on Units (4, Funny)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954161)

Duh,
47 libraries of congress to a Bristol measured at 47 degrees Reaumur 83 furlongs above knee level,
Man, I've know that for about a microcentury.

no, no (3, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954307)

The GP post asked about "libraries of congre," clearly a misspelling of "libraries of conger" as in [[daggertooth pike conger]], a species of fish. So we're really talking upwards of 7,000 libraries of conger rather than 47 libraries of congress.

Re:no, no, no (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954937)

>clearly a misspelling of "libraries of conger" as in [[daggertooth pike conger]]

You've used the wrong collective noun for such an aggregation of conger. According to this [rinkworks.com] it should be a swarm of [conger] eels. They just don't seem very bookish to me. :-) They are tasty, however.

Re:Note on Units (4, Funny)

plopez (54068) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954499)

And how many firkins of beer could you keep at 45 deg. F for a fortnight assuming an ambient 70 deg temp assuming that each dram (weight, not fluid) of coal has 1373 btus of energy. Please state all simplifying assumptions. Keep 3 sig. figs.

Re:Note on Units (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24955717)

Answer: 0.000

Simplifying Assumption: I drank it all.

Re:Note on Units (1)

MicktheMech (697533) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955873)

If you're going to try and make a joke about units at least define which "deg temp" you're referring too. There are at least four in common usage.

Re:Note on Units (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956247)

Which four temperature systems are symbolized by F again?

Re:Note on Units (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956013)

African of European firkin?

Re:Note on Units (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954209)

Not that hectares is much better. Why not use furlongs... or dog miles (that's 1/7th of a mile)?

This must be obscure measurements day.

Re:Note on Units (4, Funny)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954221)

Anyone with worldly knowledge knows that Bristol was the standard unit of measurement for area within the British Empire for over 200 years. It seems I'll have to break it down for you ignorant Americans:

Bristol has an area of 1,184,832,000 square feet (source [wikipedia.org])
The Library of Congress has an area of 2,100,000 square feet (source [nps.gov])

Therefore 1 Bristol (and TFA's fossilised forest) == 564.2 Libraries of Congress

Re:Note on Units (2, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954331)

I'm accustomed to American news reports converting approximate metric quantities into foolishly precise non-metric numbers. (6213 miles, for example, or 220 pounds.) When this story hits the US news, the fossils will be 81% the size of Bristol, TN or 124% the size of Bristol, CT. (Those numbers are made up off the top of my head, so no correction from Wikipedia-crazed doofuses is necessary, BTW.)

Re:Note on Units (2, Interesting)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954597)

I'm sorry, but these units don't properly convert. The Library of Congress isn't a measure of area, but of data storage. 1 Library of Congress = about 10 terabytes. (Oddly, this is easy to discover by googling "1 Library of Congress in megabytes". Google itself doesn't do the conversion, but the equivalence is in the top search results.)

Re:Note on Units (5, Funny)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954223)

It depends on how pregnant that Bristol is.

OK, bad bad taste. My coat's the one full of shot.

Re:Note on Units (3, Funny)

sokoban (142301) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955941)

My coat's the one full of shot.

Unfortunately, Bristol's baby's daddy's latex coat was not full of shot. That's why she is now pregnant.

I read that wrong at first... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954711)

I thought it said Fossil Ferrets

Re:Note on Units (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954761)

"And here I thought I was paying attention to SI conventions."

"Hectare" is not an SI unit.

There is no "thousands of hectares," there is only "tens of millions of square meters," or "thousands of square hectometers," if you prefer.

Re:Note on Units (1)

DanielLC (1346013) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955515)

The idea here is to use measurements that people are familiar with. There are obviously more people who know the city of Bristol well enough to know the area it covers than there are people who have seen a meter stick.

So you are saying... (-1, Redundant)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953955)

First Forest?

Offtopic, but.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24955061)

IceWeasel for Windows [sourceforge.net]

Why? Even the summary says that it's just a debranded version of Firefox (as was the original IceWeasel).

While the original's rebranding was understandable from the point-of-view of its inclusion in (and consistency with the philosophy of) the Debian Linux distribution- whether or not you agree with that- I don't see the point of it for Windows at all. Just another unnecessary and confusing fork?

Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24953969)

You too will be a fossil.

"And they'll burn great!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24953975)

We've got an energy crisis to deal with, remember?

What I find more interesting (5, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24953977)

are the places where there is both coal and limestone. The same place that was once a forest that got fossilized then got covered by the sea. Scratch through the limestone and you find fossilized sea shells etc. Go deeper and you find fossilized twigs and leaves.

Awesome. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24953993)

Awesome.

why looking at the ceiling? (3, Interesting)

nietsch (112711) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954037)

What I don't understand from the article (yes I RTFA) is why this fossil forrest needs to be viewed from below? Was all the commercially interesting coal beneath the tree fossils, or is there a scientific reason to approach it bottom up?

Re:why looking at the ceiling? (5, Informative)

omris (1211900) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954139)

The coal was produced primarily by rotting leaves and soil, which yes, would have been under the trees.

So you have a layer of petrified leaves and trees and a layer of coal beneath it. They take out the coal and you get a really big long cave, where you can look up at the bottom of the fossil bed.

Cool stuff. Now I'm waiting patiently for someone to mention the global warming comment.

Re:why looking at the ceiling? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954183)

global warming comment

Re:why looking at the ceiling? (4, Interesting)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954437)

well, finding that in a very short period of time, of natural global warming, that rainforests are replaced with giant ferns is a little disheartening. http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html [geocraft.com]

this is a wonderful find, oh and BTW the area where the coal was mined was actually a peat bog, that turned into a forest in the carboniferous period, then turned into sea several times and then back into a forest, and was also a ferny weedy place. most likely earthquakes from changes in plate tectonics played a huge role in how the land mass changed, from being above land, below land, and the erosion of nearby mountains provided the silt to cover the land when it was above ground.

so no the coal was not the result of the forest, although it may have added slightly to the coal, when it was submersed, most coal is formed from wetlands where vastly more biomass concentrates and is preserved from decaying due to water covering it thus preventing microbes from getting the oxygen to decay the plant matter. if you want coal you look for places where the water was stagnant like prehistoric wetlands, or former continental shelf areas.

Re:why looking at the ceiling? (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954463)

"from being above land, below land, "
from being above sea level and below sea level

is what i meant, whoops. i reread it and still didn't catch it ugh.

Re:why looking at the ceiling? (1)

ignavus (213578) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954889)

Cool stuff. Now I'm waiting patiently for someone to mention the global warming comment.

Um, you just did.

Re:why looking at the ceiling? (1)

Paltin (983254) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955249)

At the time all this carbon was being stored, the earth gradually changed from a long-term period of warm temperatures (hot-house) to colder temperatures (ice-house).
 
http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm
 
Currently, we're in an ice-house period (this is a much longer term cycle then the glacial ones we are familiar with).

Makes you wonder what will happen when all that sequestered carbon is released...

Hey, I am all for it. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24955329)

Change is good, and it is coming whether you want it or not.

Accept it.

There is evidence that really horrific changes happen all the time, in the cosmic scheme of things.

Sticking a cork my my SUV will do about as much good as putting your finger in a leakly dike.

If anyone cares about the future of humankind, they should advocate (the necessarily) high-tech advancements that would allow homo sapiens to spread out a bit.

Of course, the bigger picture gets muddied with existential musings about "what it all means". What's more important, people, or Earth?

Re:why looking at the ceiling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24955445)

The fun part is when the fossilized stumps fall out of the ceiling.

Re:why looking at the ceiling? (3, Interesting)

Paltin (983254) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955135)

Think about a peat bog forming--- thick layer of plant material that will later be turned to coal.

As the oceans begin to transgress (the 50-cent geologist term for sea level rise), the existing forest is quickly buried and you end up with a snapshot of the forest remaining. After removing all the coal, you end up with a cave where you look up to the interesting part. Well, interesting for me, since I'm a paleontologist. :)

Interestingly, this work is only done because the coal mining company is really, really, nice. They don't have any real incentive to let paleontologists in after they're done with operations. Kudos to them!

Nice Catch (1)

loteck (533317) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954055)

"It is quite extraordinary to find a fossil landscape preserved over such a vast area; and we are talking about an area the size of [the British city of] Bristol."

Without the edit, I may have thought it was a reference to someone else [imageshack.us]...

Great! (5, Funny)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954081)

Let's burn it!

Re:Great! (4, Interesting)

GayBliss (544986) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954893)

This one [google.com] has been burning since 1962 and could continue to burn for another 1000 years.

This one since 1884 (5, Informative)

Sanat (702) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955805)

This one is a few miles from my house.

n 1884, coal miners working the Black Diamond mine in New Straitsville, southeastern Ohio, went on strike when the Columbus and Hocking Coal and Iron Company cut their pay from 60 cents a ton to 40 cents. Legend has it that other miners, unhappy with the work stoppage, loaded several coal cars with oil-soaked firewood and rolled them into the mine.

It's hard to imagine what benefit they anticipated, but I bet they never dreamt of what resulted.

For the next 122 years and counting, the underground fire, called the Devil's Oven, has burned in the coals seams around the Monday Creek area. At times the fires have been prominent and close to the surface. In fact, in the 1930's tourists came to the area to watch their guides cook meals over smoking holes in the ground.

During the depression, a WPA crew was dispatched to the area to fight the fire, with indifferent success.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates that to date the Devil's Oven has consumed 276 million tons of coal, or 20 square miles of the black gold. Today the fire is burning about 40 feet underground... from blog of Tom Barlow

You found the Democrats! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954123)

After todays debacles, though, I doubt there will be any fossils to be found.

Some better images (5, Informative)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954301)

Some [uiuc.edu] images [uiuc.edu] better than the crappy one [uiuc.edu] with TFA. Or just go to the source: http://www.isgs.uiuc.edu/research/coal/fossil-forest/ [uiuc.edu]

Re:Some better images (3, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954987)

"The funny thing about atheists is that most of them will never understand the irony of their faith."

Atheism is merely the absence of theism.

Anything else a person may attribute to their non-theism or use to explain it is their problem/baggage, but it isn't atheism. Atheism is a "faith" like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Re:Some better images (4, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955615)

Atheism is a "faith" like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Gaah, I'm really quite sick of this mantra. For one thing.. it's a mantra. That does not make sense.

For another, if you put as much effort into not collecting stamps as most of the atheists on slashdot put into not believing in god, people would be suggesting support groups for your aphilatelism problem.

Re:Some better images (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955819)

"Gaah, I'm really quite sick of this mantra."

Then be sick of it, but it is still accurate. One may be theism-free quite easily. One may also defend their right to not be imposed upon by the agendas of the superstitious, and as superstitions are vigorous they sometimes require vigorous opposition.

Re:Some better images (4, Funny)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955885)

Fine, how about a new mantra? If atheism and religion were sex ....

Atheism would be like masturbation - you know you're there by yourself, but hell, you're having a good time!

Religion would be like masturbating with a happy face drawn on your hand - it's still only you, but you like pretending that you're not alone.

Atheism requires faith (3, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955783)

The absence of theism is not an absence of faith. For that you want agnosticism. Atheists require faith to believe that there is no God, and nothing else outside their perceived world. In reality, this viewpoint requires more faith than any religion, because all religions offer "proof" that they are true. Not so for atheism.

Re:Atheism requires faith (4, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956019)

Atheists require faith to believe that there is no God, and nothing else outside their perceived world. In reality, this viewpoint requires more faith than any religion, because all religions offer "proof" that they are true.

Nonsense - you simply need analytical ability and a basic grasp of logic.

Using your "logic", you would likewise require proof in order to believe that there is no Santa Claus. In fact, NOT believing in Santa Claus would actually require more faith than believing in Him, since the TV shows Him to us all the time, and we even see Him at the mall during the Christmas season.

The absence of theism is not an absence of faith. For that you want agnosticism.

Also wrong. Agnosticism is the way you approach a problem, not an answer to a problem. If you're agnostic about a question, that means that you accept that it can never be 100% proven or disproved. It doesn't answer the question of whether you think there is a god, though. It just means that your willing to consider both possibilities, and weigh them in a fair manner.

Technically speaking, I'm agnostic about the existence of Santa Claus. I can never prove for certain that he DOESN'T exist. But that doesn't mean that the chances of him existing or not existing are 50/50. I can use logic, observation, and deductive reasoning to come to the most likely conclusion, and I can even assign it a rough probability.

In the end, everything does come down to belief, since no question can be answered with 100% certainty. But there is a WORLD of difference between belief based on scientific observations and critical thinking, and a belief based on blind faith.

Re:Atheism requires faith (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956233)

No one ever believes with complete certainty that something is true. Everyone has doubts. If you want to say that makes everyone agnostic, go ahead. It doesn't mean anything if it applies to everyone.

Re:Atheism requires faith (3, Insightful)

Sabz5150 (1230938) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956087)

Firstly, I'd love to see some of this "proof". Secondly, there is no faith required in the idea that something does not exist. That's like saying I need faith to say that there isn't an invisible pterodactyl sitting on the back of my chair. Religion requires faith in something you cannot readily prove the existence thereof (like my pet pterodactyl), whereas I don't need any faith to say "Nope, there's no pterodactyl there."

Re:Atheism requires faith (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956137)


The absence of theism is not an absence of faith. For that you want agnosticism.

That's really a semantic argument, and nothing more. Not everyone defines atheism so narrowly. But if you want to argue, go argue with a dictionary.

In reality, this viewpoint requires more faith than any religion, because all religions offer "proof" that they are true. Not so for atheism.

Huh? I don't believe in invisible unicorns on neptune either, simply for lack of evidence. Does that mean I have "faith" that the invisible unicorns don't exist? I think you're confusing faith and non-belief.

Re:Atheism requires faith (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956327)

Atheists require faith to believe that there is no God, and nothing else outside their perceived world. In reality, this viewpoint requires more faith than any religion, because all religions offer "proof" that they are true.

Care to share that proof? Atheists do not have faith in the belief there is no god, they are skeptics and to date not one individual or organized group of faithful followers of any god have provided a single shred of proof which is compelling evidence of the existence of a god.

Oh, and a couple of important points for the faithful to keep in mind...

Unless you subscribe to every theological rendition that has ever come to be or currently exists, guess what, you are an atheist yourself. Do you believe in Zeus, Apollo, all of the many Hindu gods, etc. ad infinitum? If you deny the existence of these gods then you to are an atheist. :P

And a heads up, not believing in some magical being does not automatically mean believing in only what you perceive. For the most part atheists have no problem with science and things that cannot be perceived but can be tested. Example, you cannot perceive an electron, but you sure can test the properties of electrons and other atomic particles once you've developed the technology necessary to measure those properties. Can't say the same for some magical being dreamed up in your head. Then again there are studies of electromagnetic fields and how they can be used to induce a religious experience. [wired.com]

I've seen this before (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954309)

My dad and grandfather used to work in the coal mines in the southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky area. They used to find bits of fossilized plants all the time.

Though I doubt they found anything as largescale as what is presented in the article, my grandfather did bring out of a mine a fossil tree trunk/root system that he placed in his front yard. I very distinctly remember playing on it as a child, it was quite large.

Re:I've seen this before (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954505)

That was your granddaddy's dong and balls you played with/on , not a fossilized tree.

Sorry bud, but your mind is scarred. It tends to happen when your were sexually abused by your grandpa and his wrinkled member.

yo0 insensitiven clod! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954447)

and its lon6 Term

300 million years ago??????? (-1)

Haekel (1144259) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954479)

It's laughable where they come up with these astronomical numbers. Items that have been found in coal seams include bells, shoe soles, toys, spoons, spark plugs just to name a few. Yes they appeared to be "fossilized" in the coal but if we are to believe these guys, that spark plug that was found has been there for 300 million years. Unbelievable.

Re:300 million years ago??????? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954641)

God, how I love the lunatics who believe all those urban legends. Where would we be without them? Oh, yes. We'd be in a modern society where science is taught and skeptical thinking encouraged.

Re:300 million years ago??????? (2, Insightful)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954715)

You realize, don't you, that you're suggesting that coal seams have been laid down within the past 100 years? Thinking about it rationally would suggest to you that these items were dropped in the coal mine by miners, not laid down along with the coal. Or how do you propose they got there, to be found many meters below ground?

Re:300 million years ago??????? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24956165)

Everyone knows that Haekel is a Young Earther...

Re:300 million years ago??????? (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954891)

I was going to ask for a citation, but a simple Google for "items found in coal" resulted with Impossible Stuff Found In Coal And Rock [tripod.com]

Going from there you'l find more, but its odd that they are (from what ive found) all from the late 1800's/early 1900's... which my scepticism seems to over-ride as just wives-tales sort of stuff... a sort of joke that got taken seriously... or just to make the papers...

Not to say that I necessarily believe that its 300 million years old either, because coal can be made in a 10 thousand years as well, and probably even sooner given the right conditions...

Re:300 million years ago??????? (1)

wombert (858309) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955251)

its odd that they are (from what ive found) all from the late 1800's/early 1900's...

Might it have something to do with the decline in home coal use and/or far more automation of coal transport in the mines? Meaning fewer people who see an odd piece & have opportunity to break it open?

Just wondering if that could be part of the explanation...

Re:300 million years ago??????? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955273)

In this case, the coal has to be older then the trees. Thay's where they get the date.

I can show you links of people claiming to see big foot, ghosts, and angels. That don't make it so.

I mean look at that tripod post.

An unverified find by a 10 year old boy from an unidentified location containing an unidentified bell with unquantified composition claimed to be encased in a material that was believed to be coal.

Re:300 million years ago??????? (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955723)

It's laughable where they come up with these astronomical numbers. Items that have been found in coal seams include bells, shoe soles, toys, spoons, spark plugs just to name a few. Yes they appeared to be "fossilized" in the coal but if we are to believe these guys, that spark plug that was found has been there for 300 million years. Unbelievable.

You're having us on, aren't you? Oh you mischievous rapscallion you! Well played sir, indeed!

hectares, yeah I remember them (1)

AssTard (684911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954527)

they were on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. QUite an album, that. Made for some great love making music.

Anything else? (1)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#24954553)

The BBC article, as well as the OP, are quite devoid of additional linkage. Anybody have anymore on this? Don't be a smartass and point to Google or you'll be the first one tossed into the LHC singularity.

Noah's Flood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24954909)

More evidence for Noah's worldwide flood.

Constantly amazed by Earth (1)

M0b1u5 (569472) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955151)

I never cease to be amazed by the Earth's ability to record it's own history in the most remarkable detail.

Re:Constantly amazed by Earth (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955293)

That's why I'm very interested to see how different these fossils are from modern plants. I'm betting about zilch.

Re:Constantly amazed by Earth (1)

mcsporran (832624) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955775)

Which is probably the amount of money you would be prepared to "bet".
If you were actually interested, you could probably do the research and make a good guess about which species, both extinct and extant, you would find.
I'm up for that bet, if you actually want to bet.

Re:Constantly amazed by Earth (1)

Paltin (983254) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955911)

The actual plants being found are already scientifically known in great detail, but usually only in fragmentary form (think a leaf or two, maybe a cone in there).
 
The interesting part of this study is that the forest can be examined as a whole -- ecology level, instead of single plant level.
 
And yeah, most of the major lineages from the fossil forest are extinct- but hey, how different is one plant from another anyways? :)

Cataclysm, people cataclysm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24955227)

Forests still standing while getting fossilized? Wood not rotting? Something must have covered them in a very short time.

Great discovery! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24955795)

Now, how much energy can we get out of these old deadbeat forests!

Hmmm (1)

Schmyz (1265182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24955915)

...How would a dog react in a fossil forest??? Would it be like the old bugs bunny cartoon that ends with the book. "A tree grows in brooklyn?"

Coal mines are all about the money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24955945)

Coal mining used to be the backbone of southern Illinois. My father and his best friend were lifetime miners. My heart would bleed at some of the stories they told.

Imagine being a young nerdling and hearing stories of intact, fossilized snakes in the ceiling. "Wow! Did you call the university? Who cut it out of the ceiling?"

No one did. The mines were there for one reason, to produce coal to sell. Priceless finds were blasted every year because the business had no room for science.

Slow, gradual change... out the window (1)

ProteusQ (665382) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956115)

Layers of entire forests do not turn into fossils via slow, gradual change. I'm not trying to ignite any stupid arguments here, but has anyone read of a geological theory that covers such widespread, repeated mudslides or mud bursts?

I'm one of the geologists involved in the discover (5, Informative)

slashdotsyncline (1095441) | more than 5 years ago | (#24956157)

Greetings folks,

I'm Scott Elrick from the Illinois State Geological Survey, one of the researchers involved in the original discovery. Here's a little background:

* This current story is an extension of a story from a year ago. When the story broke, I popped onto Slashdot to answer questions - http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=232903&cid=18936603 [slashdot.org] (ignore the misspellings in those posts!)

* As a result of the publicity, I used some of the guts of my postings above to put together this webpage: http://www.isgs.uiuc.edu/research/coal/fossil-forest/fossil-forest.shtml [uiuc.edu] I tried to make a 'general public' kind of site that covers most of the basics and posted all of the pictures we took.

* From the guts of the webpage, I put together a magazine article for 'Outdoor Illinois' on the discovery. Here's a PDF (direct link) of the article - http://www.isgs.uiuc.edu/research/coal/fossil-forest/Outdoor-IL-art.pdf [uiuc.edu]

* By the end of the year we made it into the top 100 stories of 2007 in Discover magazine - http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jan/fossils-of-a-300-million-year-old-forest-found [discovermagazine.com]

* There should be an article coming out in Smithsonian magazine about the discovery in a few months time.

Now to the current news.

Our colleague Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang of the University of Bristol, UK is heading up a multi year research effort to examine the Desmoinesian - Missourian boundary in the Middle Penn. Howard, Bill DiMichele of the Smithsonian Institute, John Nelson and myself of the ISGS, Isabel Montañez of UC Davis and Neil Tabor of SMU will all be collaborating to work out the paleobotanical, sedimentologic, CO2, and climate history of this large scale climate transition. Really this is more an announcement of further research than of results!

As flat as Illinois is, we do have a pretty good record of this transitional period Rocks in Illinois? Who knew!

Cheers!

p.s. I covered a fair amount of ground in my previous postings last year in terms of answering questions. I'll pop back later this evening and see if any more pop up though.

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