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The Carboniferous Period took place during the Paleozoic Era, and what makes it unique is how ancient plants ruled the earth.

Thomas F. Mcloughlin, the author of the book A Guide to Pennsylvania (Carboniferous) Age Plant Fossils of Southwest Virginia, is well-versed about the Carboniferous period and why it was such a one-of-a-kind moment during the earth’s existence. His Pennsylvanian book about fossil plants offers a unique perspective from a professional plant fossil archeologist.

But not all of us are archaeologists and fossil plants enthusiasts, so we need a concise, engaging, and well-detailed story explaining why the Carboniferous period was special, and that’s where Thomas’ book comes in.

Let’s look at The Carboniferous Period and the earth’s appearance during this time.

What was The Carboniferous Period Known For?

If Shrek (the iconic Pixar character) were alive during the Carboniferous Period, he’d feel right at home. See, the Carboniferous Period was vastly known for the vast swamp forests. The numerous swamps and wet plants led to the production of coal, which is where the “Carboniferous” (which means “carbon-bearing” is taken from.

It lasts from around 359.2 to 299 million years during the late Paleozoic Era. For the ones who reside in the United States, the Carboniferous is known to be divided into two epochs- the Mississippian Epoch and the Pennsylvanian Epoch.

What was Life Like During the Carboniferous Period?

The Carboniferous Period began with a typically tropical, humid, and more uniform climate than today. If there were any seasons, they were simply indistinct. These observations are made from the analysis of modern-day and fossil plant anatomy.

The plants in The Carboniferous Period mirror modern times in mild temperate and tropical areas, which Thomas Mcloughlin’s Pennsylvanian book about fossil plants discusses. Plenty of them does not have growth rings that show a uniform climate.

The uniformity present in the environment could have resulted from the vast ocean expanse covering the whole surface of the planet, except for a sectarian section where Pangea, a gargantuan supercontinent that prevailed during the early Triassic and late Paleozoic, was merging together.

Although many fantastic plant forms ruled the Carboniferous, almost all vanished before the end of the Paleozoic period. Two that couldn’t survive and only exist in fossil form are Neuropteris (a plant form identical with the cycad-like seed-ferns. Lepidodendron sternbergii is among the great-scale trees, and sadly almost all of them have gone extinct during the late Middle Pennsylvanian.

The Plants That Made the Carbon Behind Carboniferous

New plants matured within the swampy conditions, warm, and humid climate during this period. Giant trees coated with huge ferns and bark grew in the Carboniferous swamps’ center. Since there were so many plants and most of them were so large, there was so much oxygen in the air that it reached 35% in the atmosphere.

Due to the abundance of oxygen, plants and animals have reached sizes we can’t imagine in today’s setting. And when the giant ferns and trees passed away, they fell into the waters with no bacteria to aid them in decomposing. Eventually, the plants turned into peat beds, and due to the weight of layers and layers, the peat beds in question transformed into coal.

End Times of the Carboniferous Period

What marked the end times of The Carboniferous Period was the global climate changes thanks to the glaciers that coated the South Pole. Although the mass extinctions that marked the end of other geologic times were absent, many species went extinct by the end. Most of the extinction occurred in the oceans, and since the marine environments were most affected by the shifting climates, almost all of the invertebrates were wiped out.

As the old saying goes, “All good things must come to an end,” and the end of The Carboniferous Period ushered in a new era where new species would become dominant over others. But as we can see, even in our modern age, plants are still here and still play an extremely vital role in life on this planet.

The Carboniferous Period is a wonderland where ancient plants thrived to an extreme degree. If you wish to learn more about them, get Thomas F. Mcloughlin’s Pennsylvanian book about fossil plants titled A Guide to Pennsylvania (Carboniferous) Age Plant Fossils of Southwest Virginia today!



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