According to an article in World News Daily Report, loggers in the Amazon have accidentally cut down a 5,800-year-old Samauma tree, the oldest in the world. Except there is no such tree. This "news" article with 143,000 Facebook shares is a wholesale fabrication.

The article gives just enough details about illegal loggers on the Peruvian and Brazilian border that the story seems plausible. (Just read all the comments expressing real outrage over the death of a fake tree!) It also completely invents quotes from a local tribesman and a supposed rainforest conservancy veneer.

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World News Daily Report is among the new breed of fake news sites masquerading as real new sites under the veil of very dubious satire. Some of its stories are outlandish ("Pterodactyl Sighting in New Guinea Terrorizes Villagers"), but most of them actually skim on the surface of possible ("Autistic Child Predicts Winning Numbers of State Lottery"). Just plausible enough you don't doubt it, just improbable enough you're compelled to share it.

Its About page doesn't even fess up to satire making shit up, though it does make the cartoonish claim that, "Our News Team is composed of award winning christian, muslim and jewish journalists, retired Mossad agents and veterans of the Israeli Armed Forces."

But enough about fake stories because the real story of how one man accidentally killed what was then the world's oldest known tree is actually far more fascinating.

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In 1964, a scientist named Don Curry was taking tree core samples of Bristlecone pines in Nevada. His tree corer got stuck, and a well-meaning park ranger helped him cut down the tree. Then, Curry started counting the rings. Listen to the full story from RadioLab.

Top image: Bristlecone tree. flickr/DaveTBear

Click here to view this www.radiolab.org embed.