Study: A 10 million year old fossil remains of a tree left researchers speechless

Fareeha Arshad
Photo byPhoto by Augustine Wong on Unsplash

Researchers working on the Central Andean Plateau in Peru have discovered a well-preserved giant tree fossil that challenges our understanding of the ancient climate in the region. The tree fossil, approximately 10 million years old, suggests that the South American climate during that time was much more humid than previously believed. This finding highlights the importance of using plant fossils to study past climate changes and gain insights into future climate patterns.

According to palaeobotanist Camila Martinez from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the tree fossil and other collected samples indicate that the ecosystem was even more humid than past climate models had predicted. The region has undergone significant changes over the past 10 million years, transitioning from a diverse and humid ecosystem to a more arid and sparse environment. These changes were driven by factors such as shifts in elevation, with the area experiencing a rise from 2,000 meters to 4,000 meters.

Evidence from plant fossils that are approximately 5 million years old suggests that most of the ecosystem transformation had already occurred by then. The fossils indicate the presence of grasses, ferns, herbs, and shrubs, resembling the puna-like ecosystem seen today. This rapid shift in vegetation and climate was likely influenced by tectonic uplift events in the region, occurring over millions of years.

The new findings highlight the complex relationship between climate change and altitude changes in the Central Andean Plateau and the neighbouring Amazon Basin. It is still unclear how ongoing climate change will affect these regions, as intricate feedback mechanisms could be triggered. However, the study suggests that in the ancient past, climate changes and altitude shifts occurred simultaneously.

The researchers note that their findings contradict some earlier studies, which proposed that tectonic uplift led to a drier climate in the area. However, disagreements among studies can be valuable in identifying areas where calculations and interpretations may need refinement. By understanding these discrepancies and comparing them with climate models, scientists can gain insights into the current and future climate of the Altiplano and the broader South American continent.

The study emphasises the importance of considering the fossil record when studying climate change. It also highlights the relevance of understanding past climate shifts to predict future climate patterns better. As temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are projected to resemble conditions from 10 million years ago by the end of this century, reconciling climate models with fossil data becomes crucial.

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 203

Published by

I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

More from Fareeha Arshad

Comments / 0