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Asteroid That Killed Dinosaurs Created Amazon Rainforest, Study Suggests

by : Cameron Frew on : 03 Apr 2021 12:55
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The asteroid believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs may have given birth to Earth’s tropical rainforests, including the Amazon. 

When dinosaurs met their untimely fate 66 million years ago, researchers believe it may have altered the vegetation one finds in these forests, leading to vastly different greenery and flowers.

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The study was conducted by experts with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, who analysed tens of thousands of fossilised pollen and leaf samples in northern South America dating back to just before the 12km-wide asteroid crash-landed in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, in the Cretaceous period.

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Published in the Science journal, the findings suggest the cataclysmic effect of the asteroid may have led to the proliferation of rainforests.

Carlos Jaramillo, a co-author on the study, told New Scientist: ‘If you returned to the day before the meteorite fall, the forest would have an open canopy with a lot of ferns, many conifers and dinosaurs. The forest we have today is the product of one event 66 million years ago.’

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After the impact, they estimate plant diversity saw a decline of 45% and didn’t recover for another six million years, with cone-bearing plants and ferns disappearing altogether. By looking at bites on the fossils, it’s believed insect diversity also experienced a drop in the fallout.

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Ellen Currano, from the University of Wyoming, also told the outlet: ‘I think the number one lesson here is unpredictability. When you have these major perturbations, they change the rules of the whole ecosystem.’

With less dinosaurs trampling and eating the surrounding plants, forests developed canopies which prevented a larger amount of light from reaching the ground, leading to the thick rainforests we know today.

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Mónica Carvalho, another co-author, also told BBC News: ‘The lesson learned here is that under rapid disturbances… tropical ecosystems do not just bounce back; they are replaced, and the process takes a really long time.’

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Science, Amazon Rainforest, dinosaurs, Now

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New Scientist and 2 others