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Coal Swamp Reconstruction

Smithsonian paleontologist Bill DiMichele and colleagues Howard Falcon-Lang (University of Bristol), John Nelson and Scott Elrick (Illinois State Geological Survey), and Phil Ames (Peabody Coal Company) discovered the remains of one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests, preserved in the ceiling of a coal mine 250 feet below the surface.


Here is a coal-swamp reconstruction: peat forming swamps, also known as “mires”, formed over vast parts of what is now the eastern United States and Western Europe during the later Carboniferous Period. The coal beds of these regions are the remains of these swampy landscapes. This reconstruction, done by Mary Parrish of the Department of Paleobiology, shows a forest dominated by a mixture of lycopsid trees (front right, also with juvenile tree), tree ferns (center front, with “mantles” of prop roots extending out from the trunks), seed ferns (left center, short trees with crown of frond-like leaves), and calamites (right side rear foreground, with branches in whorls). The forest is open and includes many vines and low-growing plants.


Check out what the swamp looks like now. For more information, visit Four Square Miles of Carboniferous Forest Discovered, a Natural History Highlight.


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Taken on May 17, 2007