Scientists discover an ancient forest inside a giant sinkhole in China

Cave explorers stumbled upon a prehistoric forest at the bottom of a giant sinkhole in South China earlier this month. Sinkhole like these called Tiankeng in Chinese, or “Heavenly pit” as English translated. This giant sinkhole protecting an ancientforest whose length is equal to three football fields in length and height can reach heights of up to 130 feet. The sinkhole is 630 feet deep, according to the Xinhua news agency. A team of speleologists and spelunkers rappelled into the sinkhole on Friday (May 6), discovering that there are three cave entrances in the chasm, as well as ancient trees 131 feet (40 m) tall.

Scientists trekked for hours to reach the base of the sinkhole to see what it contained. Chen Lixin, who led the expedition team, said that as well as the trees there was dense undergrowth on the floor that came up to his shoulders. “I wouldn’t be surprised to know that there are species found in these caves that have never been reported or described by science until now,” he said. The sinkhole-filled landscape is known as a karst landscape, formed primarily by the dissolution of bedrock by groundwater. This means dramatic sinkholes and caves are created throughout the area. This one is rare , however, as it is deep but shaped so enough light filters in, which means the large trees can grow.

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