Science & Technology

Fossilized tree reconfigures ancient Andes landscape

By Giovanna Ferullo M.

Panama City, Sep 4 (efe-epa).- A 10-million-year-old fossilized tree has opened an unexpected window into the Peruvian Altiplano’s past.

Residents of the remote town of San Miguel guided a team of researchers to the site of the “rumiyasqa mallki”, which means tree turned to stone in Quechuan.

The specimen has highlighted dramatic environmental changes the plateau, which currently sits 4,000 meters above sea level, underwent 10 million years ago.

Paleontologist Camila Martinez, a scholar at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, told Efe the extraordinary fossil was discovered by inhabitants of the region.

“When we saw this tree we were very impressed and wanted to know why it was there,” she added.

Climate models predicted that 10 million years ago the region would have been much drier and unable to support such a specimen, Martínez continued.

Researchers initially examined the fossil, which is in an excellent state of preservation, during their first expedition to the site in 2014.

After several years of study, which also included analysis of more than 5,000 records of other remains found in the area, such as pollen and leaves, it has been possible to determine the age and characteristics of the tree.

“This tree is 10 million years old, which means that it is 40 times older than mankind,” Martínez said.

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