London: Dinosaurs ruled over a world of fire and brimstone, ignited by lightning and high oxygen levels during the Cretaceous period, between 145 million and 65 million years ago, says a study.
Researchers traced fire activity through the occurrence of charcoal deposits, which can survive millions of years.
"Charcoal is the remnant of the plants that were burnt and is easily preserved in the fossil record," explained Andrew C. Scott, professor and the project leader from Royal Holloway.
This period was a greenhouse world where global temperatures were higher than those of today. Lightning strikes would have triggered these wildfires, but this period also had high levels of atmospheric oxygen, allowing blazes to burn even higher, the Daily Mail reported.
Ian Glasspool from The Field Museum said: "This was why fires were so widespread. As at such periods - unlike today - plants with higher moisture contents could burn."
Scott highlighted that "until now, few have taken into account the impact that fires would have had on the environment, not only destroying the vegetation but also exacerbating run-off and erosion and promoting subsequent flooding following storms."
The research also shows that charcoal may often be associated with dinosaur deposits.
Sarah Brown, doctoral student and study co-author, said: "When I first started my research in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Canada nobody had seen any charcoal but quickly I was able to see it everywhere, including associated with dinosaur bone beds, it was incredible."