According to a reference of an article soon to be published in Quaternary Science Reviews in April, large fossilized logs were found in northern Thailand, the largest of which measures at 72.2 meters. This suggests that the past trees’ height may have exceeded 100 meters in the wet tropical rainforests of the Middle Pleistocene period of Thailand. By comparison, the tallest living tree today “Hyperion” is 115 some meters tall. The fossils were however found at an elevation of 170 meters above sea level in a monsoonal climate known for distinct dry and wet seasons, perhaps indicating uplift in the location sites of the trees.
As the world’s longest piece of petrified wood now, these ancient trees were the most closely related to the species of Koompassia elegans of the pea, bean, and black locust tree family. These trees however are not closely related to the tallest trees that we see today like the giant redwoods and today, no tree in Thailand even comes close to the size of these past giants.
The lack of relation to today’s large trees may be explained by convergent evolution if the organisms lived in similar ecological niches. This means that, like the giant trees we see today, these ancient giants may have had to also compete against tall forests for sunlight, aided by enormous heights.
—Tristan Wang ’16 is a freshman living in Canaday.