Abstract

The African baobab is the biggest and longest-living angiosperm tree. By using radiocarbon dating we identified the stable architectures that enable baobabs to reach large sizes and great ages. We report that 9 of the 13 oldest and 5 of the 6 largest individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years; the cause of the mortalities is still unclear.

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Acknowledgements

The investigation and collection of samples from the trees was approved and authorised by the South African National Parks, the Kruger National Park, the Mapungubwe National Park, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Namibia and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana, the South Luangwa National Park. We thank H. and D. van Heerden, P. Philips and J. Chidgey, C. and Y. Liversage, L. Duplessis and R. and A. Whittall for granting permission for on-site investigation of baobabs located on their private lands. We also thank D.H. Mayne, M. Hofmeyr, S. Venter, A. Alberts, R. Wittmann, D. Dube and O. (Leon) Tsamkgao for helping to obtain permits and for participating at several field investigations. Special thanks go to J. Alexander for providing the photograph of Panke. This research was supported by the Romanian Ministry of National Education CNCS-UEFISCDI under grant PN-II-ID-PCE-2013-76 and by the Romanian Ministry of Research and Innovation CNCS-UEFISCDI under grant PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0776, no. 90/2017.

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Affiliations

  1. Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

    • Adrian Patrut
  2. iThemba LABS, Johannesburg, South Africa

    • Stephan Woodborne
  3. Faculty of Biology and Geology, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

    • Roxana T. Patrut
    •  & Laszlo Rakosy
  4. Department of Science and Engineering, Nova University, Alexandria, VA, USA

    • Daniel A. Lowy
  5. Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

    • Grant Hall
  6. NOSAMS Facility, Department of Geology & Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

    • Karl F. von Reden

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Contributions

A.P. conceived the research. A.P., S.W., R.T.P., L.R. and G.H. performed field investigations and collected samples. K.F.v.R. performed AMS measurements. A.P., S.W., R.T.P. and D.A.L. interpreted results and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Adrian Patrut.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figs. 1–3, Supplementary Tables 1 and 2

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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-018-0170-5

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