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JURASSIC BARK: SCIENTISTS FIND LIVING TREES OF A SPECIES THAT EXISTED 150 MILLION YEARS AGO.

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Scientists have discovered a real-life "Jurassic Park" outside Sydney, a secluded rain forest where living fossils, some more than 100 feet tall, have been peacefully thriving for 150 million years.

The pine trees found by a park ranger on a weekend hike are from a plant family previously thought to be extinct."The discovery is the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive on Earth," Carrick Chambers, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, said Wednesday.

The trees were found in August in a nearly inaccessible part of Wollemi National Park, about 125 miles west of Sydney in the Blue Mountains. Their exact location is being kept secret.

So far only 39 trees have been found, making the Wollemi pine one of the world's rarest plants. The biggest is 130 feet tall with a 10-foot girth and is probably at least 150 years old.

They are covered in dense, waxy foliage and have a distinctive knobby bark that makes them look as if they were coated with bubbly brown chocolate.

Scientists believed such trees died out 150 million years ago during the Jurassic era, although related ones survived into the Cretaceous era, which ended 65 million years ago.

"This is a plant family that was widespread, including the Northern Hemisphere, before that great extinction . . . when we lost the dinosaurs," said Barbara Briggs, the botanical garden's scientific director.

These trees probably survived because they were in a damp, protected gorge that apparently has been untouched by forest fires. "It really is a living fossil," she said.

Nicholas Harford, spokesman for the New South Wales environment minister, said the Wollemi pines were a new species.