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A Devonian Xinicaulis tree trunk fossil from northwest China. Photo via PNAS

Scientists have used fossils to discern how some of Earth's earliest trees called cladoxylopsids, which helped to jumpstart the planet's earliest forests about 374 million years ago, actually managed to grow, per the Los Angeles Times. Cladoxylopsids have no living modern ancestors and are believed to be most closely related to ferns.

Why it matters: The discovery helps us to better understand how some of the key inhabitants of our planet's first forests managed to survive. In turn, knowing more about cladoxylopsids could help shed light on how early plants helped to make Earth's climate habitable for the first animals by reducing the planet's carbon dioxide levels.

How modern trees grow: Trees today grow outward from the center in rings by adding xylem, which are woody fibers that carry water up the trunk. From this growth process, most species of trees generally have a uniform width.

How cladoxylopsids grew: The ancient trees' xylem grew in their outer trunks in tiny strands that were connected by even smaller strands — all centered around a hollow core. When cladoxylopsids grew, the tiny strands on the outside of the tree would continuously tear themselves apart before entering into a stage of repair. As a result, cladoxylopsids had collapsed trunks that were significantly fatter on the bottom.

What's next: Scientists want to try to understand how cladoxylopsids took in carbon, which would teach us more about Earth's early climate changes just as biology began to diversify.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”