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Wildfire biggest threat for dinosaurs: Study

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 15:40

Washington: It`s not only the predators, but also intense and frequent wildfires may have been a big threat to dinosaurs that roamed the Earth more than 65 million years ago, scientists say.
Researchers who analysed the amount of charcoal in the fossil record found that during the Cretaceous period (the period between 145 and 65 million years ago), wildfire was much more widespread than previously thought.

They created a global database of charcoal deposits during that period. Many of these charcoal deposits were associated with beds of dinosaur fossils.

"Charcoal is the remnant of the plants that were burnt and is easily preserved in the fossil record," lead researcher Andrew Scott, a professor from Royal Holloway University of London, was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

Multiple factors would have fuelled these wildfires, which were likely started by lightning strikes, the researchers said. Temperatures were also higher at that time, because of a greenhouse effect in the atmosphere and higher levels of oxygen filled the ancient atmosphere, and oxygen fuels fires, they said.

This "was why fires were so widespread," co-researcher Ian Glasspool, a curator at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, said. "As at such periods -- unlike today -- plants with higher moisture contents could burn."

The widespread fires would have disturbed the environment in which the dinosaurs and other creatures like reptiles, mammals and birds lived, and would have meant higher levels of plant turnover as plants were burned and their nutrients returned to the soil, the researchers said.

"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 runoff and erosion and promoting subsequent flooding following storms," Scott said.

The researchers, who detailed their findings in journal Cretaceous Research, are now assessing the impact that these fires would have had upon dinosaur communities.


First Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 15:40

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