It was then possible to identify the fossils as belonging to three distinct families: Pinaceaethe pine family, Araucariaceaea family of coniferous trees currently found only in the Southern Hemisphere, and Cheirolepidiaceaea now-extinct family of conifers known only from the Mesozoic.
"This tells us that 150 million years ago, the ancient forests of western North America consisted of members of these three families. The fossil cones of the Araucariaceae from Utah confirm that this family, which now grows naturally in Australasia and South America, once had a worldwide distribution," notes Gee.
Dr. Gee hopes this study will provide researchers with an alternative to traditional techniques such as thin-sectioning, which often leave the fossil completely destroyed. She concludes, "MicroCT was very effective in showing internal structure of several types of fossil cones and worked extremely well on recent specimens. Coupled with 3D reconstruction techniques in color, microCT and image segmentation can become powerful tools in the study of fossil plants and will certainly become more commonplace in paleobotany and botany, as it allows us to visualize the internal tissues of specimens without damaging them in the least."
|Contact: Beth Parada|
American Journal of Botany