The previous part of the series The Oldest Living Creatures (3/5) ON THIS LINK (<- CLICK)
Further than 15,000 years old, even older creatures exist; these kinds of organisms can be so ancient that they became “less of a life” and more like a force of nature; they are so timeless that it can be no longer discerned whether they are there for the environment or the environment is there for them.
In North America, there is a forest named Pando, made of just one poplar tree; All the seemingly individual trees are actually just the sprouts of the vast root system hidden deep underground.
In the picture: Simplified representation of a plant with a multitude of trees growing from its common root.
In ancient times, one young poplar tree began to produce sprouts from its roots that began to grow into, what it seemed as neighboring trees; Today, this root system has over 40,000 sprouts and forms the entire Pando forest.
Given that this is actually one tree, the forest behaves a bit magical; leaves foliage at the same time during the fall, and the trees exchange water and nutrients from richer to poorest areas.
The team of experts tried to determine when did that forgotten seed sprout into the first tree and began creating that root system. Poplar trees produce huge amounts of seeds; however, conditions for their germination in the west of the continent do not exist since the last ice age. Because of this and some other factors, age estimates of this superorganism range from 80,000 up to a million years. It is believed that there are even larger and older plant superorganisms on the planet, but it is not easy to discern them from ordinary woods with individual trees.
In the picture: Superorganism Pando’s yellow leaves in the fall with thousands of trees that are actually one under the earth. Can you notice which trees are connected and which are not?
Unfortunately, Pando has been dying for the last couple of centuries. Since the arrival of the first Europeans on the American soil, there is an increase in the number of herbivores that feed with young sprouts that originate from the roots, before they grow into trees. Still, with the recent fencing of large areas above the root system, young sprouts are protected from animals and it seems that Pando will remain an eternal part of the landscape.
In the picture: Pando is the Latin word for “widen”. With new protective fences, it will continue to get even wider.
In the picture: Pando near water source. The roots can transfer this water miles further to the farthest trees.
Similar superorganism exists in the Mediterranean Sea: Posidonia, a species of seaweed, makes a miles long superorganism of 80,000 to 200,000 years old. Even with the DNA analysis, it is difficult to determine the right age, because the parts of the sea where it now lives, in the distant past were part of the mainland.
In the picture: Sea grass. It’s easy to see how it is spreading through rootstocks.
Continuation of the series The Oldest Living Creatures (5/5) ON THIS LINK (<- CLICK)