In 1994, David Noble, a worker at Wollemi National Park in Australia's Blue Mountains, discovered the Wollemi Pine. Due to his rock climbing abilities he found them in an otherwise inacessible gorge. David Noble had good botanical knowledge, and quickly recognised a group of trees as being unusual and worthy of further investigation. Returning with specimens, and expecting someone to be able to identify the plants, Noble soon found that they were new to science. The initial suspicion was that it had certain characteristics of the 200-million-year-old family Araucariaceae, but was not similar to any living species in the family. Comparison with living and fossilised Araucariaceae proved that it was a member of that family, and it has been placed into a new genus with Agathis and Araucaria. Fossils resembling Wollemia are widespread in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica, but Wollemia nobilis is the sole living member of its genus. The last known fossils of the genus date from approximately 2 million years ago. Thus David Noble discovered a living fossil the botanic equivalent of finding a small dinosaur alive today.
Author & photographer: David Johnson (Virtual Oceania)
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