Evergreen tree that outlived the dinosaurs is dying out

(ORDO NEWS) — An ancient tree – the Chilean araucaria (English monkey puzzle tree) has characteristic prickly leaves and intricate scaly branches. Scientists believe that its unusual features evolved as a defense against tall, long-necked dinosaurs.

Reaching 48.8 meters tall and able to live for a millennium, this evergreen tree survived the Jurassic era, more than 145 million years ago.

The araucaria outlived the dinosaurs, but today the tree is considered endangered by scientists. Cultivated araucaria grow in gardens and parks around the world, but in the wild this species grows only along the slopes of the volcanoes of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina.

Fires, land clearing, overgrazing and logging have reduced the size of the temperate forest where the monkey puzzle tree grows. Its large seeds are also a valuable food source for the endemic bird species, the Australian parrot.

Greenish parrots fly from tree to tree in flocks of 15 birds to find a good place to feed for the winter. When the birds win the jackpot, their number can increase to over 100 and they gorge themselves on pine nuts.

Recent research has shown that marauding parrots, despite their bottomless appetite for nuts, can actually help trees survive in Patagonia.

Scientists say the birds act as a buffer against the threat posed by human over-collection of nuts.

Parrots usually pick up nuts and eat them from treetops dozens of feet away. Birds often only partially eat the seeds.

In fact, according to a 2018 study, partial removal of the seed coat by parrots increased the germination rate of araucaria seeds.

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