Remains of a Jurassic Tropical Forest

September 2nd, 2009

MAKHTESH RAMON, ISRAEL–As part of a mine reclamation project in the Makhtesh Ramon National Park near Mitzpe Ramon, the ranger noticed large pieces of fossilized wood coming from the tailings of a bauxite mine which were being trucked to fill large excavations.  Rather than bury these specimens forever, he called the Geological Survey to take a look.  Yoav Avni, one of my Israeli colleagues and a good friend, took me there this morning to see the fossils and help remove them from the debris piles.

Examining pieces of Jurassic tree trunks with the Makhtesh Ramon ranger (center).

Examining pieces of Jurassic tree trunks with the Makhtesh Ramon ranger (center).

The wood is from the lower part of the Ardon Formation, a Jurassic unit lying unconformably on Triassic sediments.  The forest was on the equator during the Early Jurassic, which could make it significant.  Most of the wood is coalified, with some patches of silicification.  We’ll take samples to the Geological Survey headquarters in Jerusalem on Sunday to examine them more closely.  This was a fun little detour because I’ve never seen Jurassic coal — nor had a front-end loader help me sort out specimens!

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