Dec 1, 2010

Global warming destroyed rainforests 300 million years ago

Global warming devastated tropical rainforests 300 million years ago - triggering the rise of the dinosaurs, according to a new study by British scientists.

European landscape during the Carboniferous era
The destruction of the Carboniferous tropical rainforests may have paved the way for the rise of dinosaurs 100 million years later Photo: ALAMY

Researchers believe the destruction of the rainforests kicked off an evolutionary burst amongst reptiles and inadvertently paved the way for the rise of dinosaurs 100 million years later.
And the scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Bristol University warned that the discovery is a chilling message that humanity could be wiped off the face of the earth if today's Amazon rainforest is allowed to disappear.
The event happened during the Carboniferous Period when Europe and North America lay on the equator and were covered by steamy tropical rainforests.
However, when the Earths climate became hotter and drier, rainforests collapsed, triggering reptile evolution.
Dr Howard Falcon-Lang, from the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, said: "Climate change caused rainforests to fragment into a small islands of forest.
"This isolated populations of reptiles and each community evolved in separate directions, leading to an increase in diversity."
Professor Mike Benton, of Bristol University, said: "This is a classic ecological response to habitat fragmentation.
"You see the same process happening today whenever a group of animals becomes isolated from its parent population.
"Its been studied on traffic islands between major road systems or, as Charles Darwin famously observed in the Galapagos, on oceanic islands."
Sarda Sahney, also of Bristol University, said: "It is fascinating that even in the face of devastating ecosystem-collapse, animals may continue to diversify through the creation of endemic populations."
However, she added: "Life may not be so lucky again in the future, should the Amazon rainforest collapse."
To reach their conclusions, the scientists studied the fossil record of reptiles before and after rainforest collapse. They showed that reptiles became more diverse and even changed their diet as they struggled to adapt to rapidly changing climate and environment.
The new findings were published in the journal Geology.



Post a Comment