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Trees protected themselves from fungi and bacteria as early as 360 million years ago

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An international team of scientists has studied a petrified fragment of a tree, some 360 ​​million years old. It turned out that even then the plants had special structures, called indentations, protecting them against the penetration of harmful microorganisms.

According to scientists in the scientific journal Nature Plants, fossils from 360 million years ago prove that plants defended themselves against pests so long ago.

Unique structures

Plants are able to protect their wood against infections and water loss by creating special structures, called indentations. They prevent further damage to the vessels in the wood. Thanks to them, bacteria and fungi cannot penetrate inside the tree. However, it was not known how long ago such an ability evolved in the plant world.

The latest research shows that plants were able to use such self-defense at least 360 million years ago. This is evidenced by analyzes of a fossil found in Wexford in south-east Ireland. The discovery was made by an international team of scientists led by Carla J. Harper from Trinity College in Dublin (Ireland).

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‘By studying plant fossils and their ecosystems, we can gain important insights into the history of plant physiological processes that still occur today,’ explained Dr Harper.

Older than dinosaurs

Plants fossilized in Ireland lived long before dinosaurs (about 160 million years) and even before flying insects. They formed the first primeval forests. Microorganisms, fungi and early relatives of arachnids, millipedes and centipedes lived on their leaves.

They belonged to an extinct group of plants called Archaeopteridalean progymnosperms. They already resembled today’s trees, for they had a wooden trunk, branches and a complex root system.

Main photo source: stock.adobe.com

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