Amazingly Preserved Leaves

Science in Perspective

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Beautifully preserved fossils are so common that we overlook how unusual they are. Consider the fossil plants discovered at Mazon Creek near Chicago. Plants usually shrivel up after they die, but not these leaves. Millions of them are exquisitely preserved, and flatter than we find them in life.

What unique combination of events, unlike anything we see today, makes this possible? Answer: A catastrophic, worldwide Flood!

Step 1: The violent Flood must have ripped the leaves off the plants while they were still alive, before they could whither and decay.

Step 2: The fresh leaves then floated in the ocean long enough for water to enter the cells through osmosis and stiffen the leaves. (This is the same process that causes wilting house plants to straighten when watered.) The leaves would be full of water and flatter than in life!

Step 3: Since leaves begin to curl as soon as water drains away, these leaves must have been buried before the water left the cells.

Our wonder grows when we realize that similar well-preserved, flattened fossils are found around the world. It appears that whole forests, with all sorts of different plants, were suddenly ripped apart and buried in a watery catastrophe!

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October–December 2016

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