Wollemi Pine is believed to exist in only one location which is within 200
km of the heart of Sydney, Australia's largest city. There are less than
40 trees in the wild.
This makes it one of the rarest plants in the world. It belongs in the
plant family Araucariaceae but has distinctive features.
However it has very different features from any known living pine.
Its closest relatives are probably the extinct pines which were a dominant
feature of the landscape of what is now Australia during the Jurassic and
Cretaceous Periods - between 200 and 65 million years ago.
These pines are known to us only from fossils.
Conifers tend to be dark green but the leaves of Wollemi Pine are a light
green - varying from bright lime green on younger foliage to apple green
on mature foliage. The leaf structure is extremely complex and unusual.
The upper branches of the trees are tipped with bright green female cones
and brown, cylindrical, male cones (the trees are bisexual).
The trunks of Wollemi Pine have a highly unusual brown, knobby cork-like
bark which has led it to being dubbed 'the Coco Pops tree'. Indeed it
appears to be a true "living fossil", most closely related to extinct
species of Araucariaceae in the fossil record in southern Australia about
50 million years ago. The family Araucariaceae is an important group in
studying the history of our flora. Araucariaceae had a world-wide
distribution in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods 200 to 65 million
years ago. Since the great extinctions at the end of the Cretaceous
Araucariaceae have survived only in the southern hemisphere. The present
occurence suggest a Gondwanic distribution, linked to the time when
Australia, New Zealand, Africa, South America and India were all parts of
the great supercontinent Gondwana. Wollemi Pine, is so distinctive that it
represents a new genus and must have been an evolutionary line distinct
from any other surviving plant group for at least 65 million years. The
new plant is related to Araucaria, which includes Australia's Hoop Pine
and Bunya Pine and the Norfolk Island Pine, and also to Agathis including
the Kauri Pine of New Zealand. Wollemi Pine is a conifer ('pine') whose
nearest living relatives are native pines of Australia and New Zealand:
Hoop Pine, Bunya Pine, and Norfolk Island Pine.
The single known population of Wollemi Pine is in a rainforest gully
within Wollemi National Park (487,648 ha). This is the State's largest
wilderness area - located West of the Putty Road between Sydney and the
The mature plants are between 27 and 35 metres high with trunks up to 1
metre in diameter. However the tree can grow taller: one fallen trunk is
38 metres long. During the Jurassic Period (208 - 144 million years ago),
the continental mass which we call Australia was part of the great
supercontinent of Gondwana, towgether with Africa, South America and
India. What is now the east coast of Australia lay close to the South
Pole, but worldwide climates were uniformly warm to hot and wet.
From the Cretaceous Period (144 - 66.4 million years ago) modern flowering
plants began to evolve and gradually displace the conifers in the Southern
Hemisphere. Because of the extreme danger to the plant from illegal seed
collecting, the location of the population is being kept secret.
Some Ediacaran fossils appear somewhat similar to modern organisms. For
example, Charnia resembles the modern sea pen, a feathery soft coral.
The Ediacaran is dated between 635 and 540 million years ago. It preceded
the Cambrian period, about 540 to 485 million years ago, which marked the
beginning of one of the biggest explosions of life in the history of
For a long time, scientists thought the Cambrian period was when
multicellular life first ran rampant. It is when most of the known kinds
of animals that scientists recognize today first appeared on the scene.
Yet late in the 20th century, researchers discovered fossil evidence of
multicellular organisms in the Ediacaran as well, pushing back their first
appearance almost 100 million years.
Four species of horseshoe crabs exist today. Only one species, Limulus
polyphemus, is found in North America along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts
from Maine to Mexico. The other three species are found in Southeast Asia.
Horseshoe crabs are not true crabs at all. Horseshoe crabs are more
closely related to arachnids (a group that includes spiders and scorpions)
than to crustaceans (a group that includes true crabs, lobsters, and
shrimp). Horseshoe crabs are often called "living fossils" because fossils
of their ancestors date back almost 450 million years--that's 200 million
years before dinosaurs existed.
Despite inhabiting the planet for so long, horseshoe crab body forms have
changed very little over all of those years. The strange anatomy of the
horseshoe crab is one of this animal's most notable aspects.
Unfortunately, the long, thin, spike-like tail of horseshoe crabs has
given this species an unfavorable reputation. Many people view horseshoe
crabs as dangerous animals because they have sharp tails. In reality,
horseshoe crabs are harmless. Their tails are used primarily to flip
themselves upright if they are accidentally overturned.
Stromalolites are are layered mounds, columns, and sheet-like sedimentary
They were originally formed by the growth of layer upon layer of
cyanobacteria, a single-celled photosynthesizing microbe
Live Stromalolites from Shark Bay Western Australia
Ancient Stromatolite - The age is estimated to be 2.2 to 2.4 billion
years old, near the Lower Paleoproterozoic,
from a time in the Precambrian when stromatolite is believed to have been
both ubiquitous and abundant on earth.