"The basic point of this paper is, well, two things," says lead author William Stein, a biologist at the Binghamton University in New York State.
"We now have clear evidence what these stumps really were," part of the class Cladoxylopsida believed to be related to modern-day ferns, and we also have "real strong evidence of the morphology of these forms."
From the fossil reconstruction, the team of scientists determined that a tree comprising all these parts could grow about 30 feet tall.According to Stein
, the base would have been massive,on the order of 2.5 feet in diameter,with a large, single trunk and longitudinal ridges (probably part of the tree's vascular system), topped by a leafless crown of a material resembling fronds on ferns and palms.
says the team is "sticking with just the genus," as far as classification goes, because "we can't distinguish species from genera with the fragments we have."
By piecing together the fragments, the team was able to get an idea of what a forest ecosystem might have looked like 360 million years ago.Stein
estimates these Wattieza trees would have been "fairly closely spaced," about three to 16 feet apart, and that they would have dropped a load of litter from their branches onto the forest floor.