In northern Thailand, fossilized trees that were around the size of today’s tallest redwoods have been discovered. The longest petrified log measures 72.2 meters (237 feet), indicating that the original tree, which stood in a moist tropical forest some 800,000 years ago, towered to a height of more than 100 meters (330 feet).
It’s interesting to note that no trees in Thailand now are even close to the scale of the prehistoric ones.In answer to my email inquiry regarding his recently published study that will appear in the April issue of the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, Philippe stated that the tallest trees in Thailand right now are close to 60 meters (200 feet) tall. “To my knowledge, the highest tree ever discovered in Thailand is a Krabak tree, 58 meters (190 feet) tall and a member of the Dipterocarpaceae (‘tropical oaks’) family.The fossilized trees were discovered in sediments, which indicates that they formerly existed in a wet forest on the edge of a lowland plain. At a height of 170 meters (550 feet) above sea level today, where the climate alternates between wet and dry seasons, this is known as a monsoonal climate. According to Philippe, it’s plausible that the area has improved in some way after the trees were felled.
Just how these buried trees were found is an interesting story in itself. A small section of a large petrified log was found ten years ago by a villager in a reserve forest at Ban Tak District, Tak Province. The discovery was reported to officials of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department and so an official came out to examine the log and surveyed the surrounding area. The log was then excavated to a length of 21 meters (70 feet) without reaching the end. Ground penetrating radar was brought in and found that 30 meters (100 feet) of trunk were still unexposed. In 2005, funds were found to excavate the whole trunk. At present, seven of nine discovered petrified trunks have been excavated, mostly in 2005.
The outcome was the creation of what is regarded as the longest piece of petrified wood in the world, measuring 72.22 meters (236.9 feet), according to the experts. Due to the remarkable discoveries, the park’s name was changed to Petrified Forest Park in 2006.
As to why there were big trees in the past that are unrelated to today’s giant trees, it appears to be just another case of what’s called convergent evolution. That’s where similar environmental factors lead to traits that are similar in unrelated species. Think rheas (South America), ostriches (Africa) and emus (Australia). All are large, unrelated flightless birds that evolved on different continents. I’m not sure what drives trees to grow taller, but a dense forest and a competition for sunlight is part of it. It seems likely that over hundreds of millions of years that plants have been around there have been lots of very tall tree species, probably from every family of plant. It’s just an extremely very rare thing to get an entire petrified trunk to confirm it.
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