- Asteroid impacts destroyed most of life on Earth 66 million years ago.
- Before the Colombian wild asteroid was airy and light, with a tall conifers.
- Researchers used plant fossils and pollen to track changes over millions of years.
The dense, dark rainforests in Colombia today look very different 66 million years ago.
Sunlight shines through tall pine trees to ferns and flowering shrubs with plenty of room to grow on the forest floor. Much less humid And yes, there are dinosaurs
The giant asteroid then struck Earth, wiping out 75% of life on Earth and ending the Cretaceous.
“A single historical accident has changed the ecology and evolution of tropical rainforests,” Carlos Jaramillo of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City told Science News. It is today a by-product of what happened 66 million years ago. ”
Jaramillo was a paleontologist, meaning he studied ancient pollen. He is part of a team that spent 20 years collecting and analyzing thousands of pollen, spores and leaf fossils from 72 million to 58 million years ago.Their study was published last week. In Science
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“It took us a long time to gather enough data to have a clear picture of what happened during the extinction,” said study lead author Mónica Carvalho and PhD fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Ars Technica
After the asteroid nearly half of Colombia’s plant species disappeared. Coniferous conifers died over the next 6 million years, flowering plants and ferns that continued to occupy the rainforest.
They grow close to each other, forming a thick roof that blocks the sun. The water evaporated from their leaves increases the humidity.
The researchers have some ideas as to why this change happened.
Without hungry plant-eating dinosaurs, grazing plants and walking through the bushes, trees could grow unobstructed. Coniferous plants may no longer be suitable for the tropics.
Finally, do you remember that asteroid? It may also release a tsunami that has accumulated carbon-rich sediments in the forest. The ash from the wildfire caused by the explosion may act as fertilizer. Coniferous plants do not act as well in high nutrient soils as with flowering plants.
“This is something we continue to explore as we search for more fossil sites and as we continue to study the tropics,” Carvalho said.
Bonnie Jacobs, a paleobotanist at Southern Methodist University in Texas who was not part of the study, told New Scientist: “We love that it ended up in an incredibly complex and diverse forest. But now we are living through Many extinctions are caused by humans, and again, all ecosystems are being set in different paths. In the case of the rainforest, we might like the end product. But not all animals that were alive in the Cretaceous period. ”
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Jaramillo said that millions of years of rainforest trails have lessons for us today as we see widespread deforestation in the Amazon and around the world.
“In some of the places that we have studied, I can see before my eyes how this 66 million years of forest has been exhausted in a day and the deforestation rate is steadily rising.” “We know from this study that it will take a long time to reconstruct these diverse forests: You can’t cut down forests and think that there are no forests. ‘Oh, tomorrow I will plant more trees.’ ”
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