Reading the leaves


  • Elaine Friebele


Paleobotanical evidence is reversing previous ideas about the geologic history of the Basin and Range Province of Nevada. Rather than being uplifted within the last 5 million years, as previously thought, the Basin and Range Province collapsed from a higher elevation around 13 m.y.a., new evidence suggests. Much like palm readers inferring a lifestyle from lines on a hand, paleobotanists studied the shape and size of fossil leaves as clues to western Nevada's environment 15 million years ago. J.A. Wolfe of the University of Arizona and colleagues concluded that the plants grew at approximately 3 km above sea level, which is 1–1.5 km higher than western Nevada's present altitude.