A Lost Megaflora Forest From 22 Million Years Ago Has Been Found

The relics of an ancient mangrove forest that vanished almost 22 million years ago have been uncovered on a Panama Canal island
A Lost Megaflora Forest From 22 Million Years Ago Has Been Found

Barro Colorado Island, located in the man-made Gatun Lake in the centre of the Panama Canal, is home to one of the world's oldest tropical research stations, where investigations have been conducted for more than 100 years. Researchers working on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal discovered a lost ancient mangrove forest over 22 million years old, which led to the discovery of the fossilised—and previously unknown to science -Sonneratioxylon barrocoloradoensis mangrove species.

What The Findings Say

The findings were reported in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, and Palaeoecology, a journal that publishes high-quality studies in the field of palaeo-environmental geoscience. According to them, the mangrove forest, including the 121 fossilised wood pieces found on the island, dates to the Aquitanian period of the Early Miocene. Central Panama was part of a narrow peninsula connected to North America but separated from South America during this time. And it was the site of tremendous volcanic activity. The forest was most likely destroyed by these volcanic eruptions.

Mangroves Forests

According to the study's researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the wood anatomy of these mangroves is identical to a form of mangrove native to Southeast Asia. The researchers believe that S. barrocoloradoensis grew to a height of 82 feet—though the largest examples might spread up to 131 feet, easily exceeding modern mangrove forests in terms of towering reach.

Barro Colorado Island

Barro Colorado Island and its five neighbouring peninsulas are a tropical biologist's paradise, providing easy access to central Panama's lowland tropical forest. When engineers dammed the Chagres River in 1914 to build Gatun Lake, the primary route of the Panama Canal, they created the 1,560-hectare island.

Barro Colorado Island became a research hotspot after being established in 1913. The 9-square-mile island is home to some of the world's oldest tropical research stations, as the "rainforest-covered living laboratory" provides unique chances to study biology, ecology, and animal behaviour.

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