Raging wildfires tore via Antarctica 75 million years in the past, again when dinosaurs nonetheless roamed the Earth, a brand new examine finds.
During the late Cretaceous period (100 million to 66 million years in the past), one of many warmest intervals on Earth, Antarctica’s James Ross Island was house to a temperate forest of conifers, ferns and flowering crops referred to as angiosperms, in addition to to a slew of dinosaurs. But it wasn’t a total paradise; historical paleo-fires burned elements of these forests to a crisp, abandoning charcoal remnants that scientists have now scooped up and studied.
“This discovery expands the knowledge about the occurrence of vegetation fires during the Cretaceous, showing that such episodes were more common than previously imagined,” examine lead researcher Flaviana Jorge de Lima, a paleobiologist at Federal University of Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, stated in a press release.
The discovering marks the primary proof on file of a paleo-fire on James Ross Island, part of the Antarctic Peninsula that now sits beneath South America. The discovery provides proof that spontaneous fires have been widespread in Antarctica in the course of the Campanian age (about 84 million to 72 million years in the past); in 2015, in a separate examine, researchers documented the primary identified proof of dinosaur-age wildfires in West Antarctica, in response to a examine within the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.
For the brand new work, a global crew of scientists analyzed fossils collected throughout a 2015-2016 expedition to the northeastern a part of James Ross Island. These fossils contained fragments of crops that regarded like charcoal residue, which had weathered away over the previous tens of hundreds of thousands of years.
The charcoal fragments have been small — the biggest paper-thin items have been simply 0.7 by 1.5 inches (19 by 38 millimeters). But scanning electron microscope photos revealed their identification: These fossils are doubtless burned gymnosperms, doubtless from a botanical household of coniferous timber referred to as Araucariaceae, the researchers discovered.
Intense forest fires have been frequent and widespread in the course of the late Cretaceous, though a lot of the proof for these blazes lies within the Northern Hemisphere, with just a few documented instances within the Southern Hemisphere in what’s now Tasmania, New Zealand and Argentina, the researchers stated.
During the late Cretaceous, the supercontinent of Gondwana was breaking apart, leaving locations like Antarctica extra remoted than earlier than. This ice-free area had loads of ignition sources, together with lightning strikes, fireballs from falling meteors and volcanic exercise, in addition to flammable vegetation and excessive oxygen ranges, which assist fires burn, the researchers famous.
“Antarctica had intense volcanic activity caused by tectonics during the Cretaceous, as suggested by the presence of fossil remains in strata related to ash falls,” the researchers wrote within the examine. “It is plausible that volcanic activity ignited the palaeo-wildfire that created the charcoal reported here.”
Now, the researchers are searching for new data of paleo-fires in different areas in Antarctica.
The examine was revealed on-line Oct. 20 within the journal Polar Research.
Originally revealed on Live Science.