Sunday, June 8, 2014

Seared into history

Dinosaur-era forest fire evidence sheds light on ancient biodiversity

Researchers from McGill University and Royal Saskatchewan Museum recently uncovered the very first fossil-based evidence of ancient forest fire ecology, or plant regrowth after fire, during their expedition in southern Saskatchewan, Canada.

The team of researchers found the fossil that shows Earth’s ecology prior to the mass extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

“Excavating plant fossils preserved in rocks deposited during the last days of the dinosaurs, we found some preserved with abundant fossilized charcoal and others without it. From this, we were able to reconstruct what the Cretaceous forests looked like with and without fire disturbance,” Hans Larsson, Canada Research Chair in Macroevolution at McGill University, says in a statement.

Evidence indicates that ancient forests recovered from wildfires in the same manner that forests do today. It also shows that the plants at an ancient forest fire site were dominated by flora somehow similar to the kind that currently brings about recovery of forest after a fire.

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