IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


27th July, 2023 Geography

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The discovery of an exceptionally well-preserved fossil forest in Japan that dates back to the late Miocene epoch, a period that existed around 10.4 to 5 million years ago.


  • Researchers in Japan uncovered a well-preserved fossil forest from the late Miocene epoch.
  • The fossil forest belongs to the Wataria parvipora species.
  • The forest was first discovered during a severe drought in 1994.

Characteristics of Wataria parvipora

  • Wataria parvipora is a wood-fossil with distinctive growth rings, abundant parenchyma rays, and no resin canals.
  • 95% of the tree remains in the 2000 square meter fossil site belong to Wataria parvipora.
  • Largest fossilized trunk found during the excavation process was around 137 centimeters in diameter.

Rarity of Complete Plant Fossils

  • Complete plant fossils are seldom found in one piece due to detachment of different parts.
  • Reconstructing plants is essential for establishing their taxonomic identity.

Findings and Taxonomic Identity

  • The majority of surrounding leaves belonged to Byttneriophyllum tiliifolium, associated with the Malvaceae family.
  • Byttneriophyllum tiliifolium is related to modern plants like cotton, cacao, and okra.
  • Fossils of Byttneriophyllum tiliifolium have been found across Eurasia from the Miocene and Pliocene epochs.
  • 98% of the fossil leaves found at the site belonged to Byttneriophyllum, indicating they were shed from the parent trees.

Significance of the Discovery

  • The fossil forest provides valuable information to understand the missing links of the late Miocene epoch.
  • It aids in reconstructing a "whole Eurasia plant" from that period.

About Late Miocene Epoch

  • The Late Miocene is a sub-epoch within the Miocene Epoch, following the Middle Miocene and preceding the Early Pliocene.
  • It spans a duration of about 5.4 million years, from approximately 10.4 million years ago to around 5 million years ago.


  • During the Late Miocene, the Earth experienced a general trend of cooling and drying, transitioning from the warm and wet conditions of the Early Miocene.
  • The Late Miocene Climate Transition (LMCT) marked the shift towards a more seasonal climate, with increased variability in temperature and precipitation.


  • The vegetation during the Late Miocene exhibited significant changes due to the shifting climate.
  • Tropical rainforests began to decline, giving way to more open woodlands and grasslands.
  • The spread of grasslands was facilitated by the evolution of grazing animals like the ancestors of modern horses and elephants.


  • The Late Miocene witnessed the evolution of various mammalian species, including early hominids. Apes and hominids were present during this epoch, with some early human ancestors appearing around 7 million years ago.
  • Large mammals like mastodons, rhinoceroses, and various species of carnivores roamed the continents.

Sea Level Changes

  • During the Late Miocene, global sea levels fluctuate, leading to changes in marine environments and the formation of new land connections between continents.
  • The isolation of water bodies and the creation of land bridges influenced the dispersal of species across different regions.

Tectonic Activity

  • The Late Miocene was characterized by active tectonic movements, including the collision of the Indian subcontinent with the Asian plate, resulting in the formation of the Himalayan mountain range.
  • Volcanic activity was also prevalent during this epoch, contributing to the shaping of landscapes and the release of greenhouse gases that affected the global climate.

Fossil Record

  • The Late Miocene is well-documented in the fossil record, providing valuable insights into the evolutionary history of various plant and animal species.
  • Fossilized remains of mammals, plants, and marine life from this period have been found in different parts of the world, helping scientists understand past ecosystems and environmental changes.


Q) Consider the following statements about the Late Miocene:

  1. The Late Miocene Climate Transition (LMCT) led to a cooling and drying trend, transitioning from warm and wet conditions of the Early Miocene.
  2. The Late Miocene saw the expansion of tropical rainforests and a decrease in open woodlands and grasslands.

Select the correct statements using the codes below:

(a)    1 only

(b)   2 only

(c)    Both 1 and 2

(d)   Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C