© 1997-2002 by Phillip Bigelow Two views of a fossil Metasequoia sp. seed cone from the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of Montana. This fossil is actually a mold of the original cone, composed of an iron oxide/hydrous iron oxide complex of the minerals hematite and goethite, along with a bit of sand. The unusual feature is that the minerals have filled-in the voids between the opened scales of the original cone. Later, the woody material rotted away, leaving only the mold. So, when you look at the empty spaces in this fossil, you are actually looking at where the original cone scales used to be! (just think of this fossil as a negative image of the original cone; what used to be solid is now air space, and what used to be air space is now solid). A comparison of the morphology of the Hell Creek Formation cones with cones from the modern Metasequoia glyptostroboides tree (a living fossil, native only to one small mountain valley in central China), shows that although the fossil and modern cones do not resemble each other that closely, they are similar enough to be placed in the same genus (actually, the fossil and modern foliage are strikingly similar). The illustrated cone is 2.9 centimeters tall.
 
 
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