Geological aspects of my X-mas tree

My daughter and I decorated the family X-mas tree a few days ago. A little earlier than usual, but I guess we are both eager for X-mas to start, each in our own way. She is longing for the X-mas presents and I am in need of some holidays 🙂

Our X-mas tree this year is an Abies nordmanniana (Steven) Spach, one very much like the one on the photo below.

Abies nordmanniana
 
As a palaeontologist specialized in the Late Palaeozoic to Early Mesozoic I would of course have loved a Wollemia nobilis or the Wollemi pine as a X-mas tree, but it is on the endangered species list. The Wollemi pine, which probably evolved in the Early Cretaceous, some 110 million years ago, is an araucariacean conifer that was believed extinct until it was discovered growing in some remote sandstone gorges some 150 km northwest of Sydney, Australia.
 
But Abies nordmanniana is not on the endagered species list, and so it is a much better choice for a X-mas tree. It is native to the Caucasus, Armenia and areas around the Black Sea. Abies nordmanniana probably evolved from an ancestral Mediterranean form during the Pliocene, i.e. between2.6 and 5.3 million years ago (Linares, 2011). Hence, geologically speaking my X-mas tree is a fairly young species.
 
I have never worked with the Pliocene, but it was an interesting time period. Due to a combination of global cooling and drying  grasslands and savannas spread enormously during the Pliocene, creating new environments where long-legged grazing mammals, the ancestors of e.g. zebras and antilopes, could evolve. During the Pliocene North and South America connected through the Panamanian land-bridge, and allowed interchange of species between two continents that had been separated for a long time. This eventually lead to the extinction of most of the South American marsupials and native ungulates. So in fact, the Pliocene was quite a dramatic period.
 
Anyhow, my Abies nordmanniana looks lovely with its X-mas decorations 🙂
 
Merry Christmas!
 
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