Dinos witnessed Oz bushfires that appeared 50mn yrs earlier than thought

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

MELBOURNE - A new study has found that bushfires appeared in Australia more than 50 million years earlier than thought, which means that dinosaurs were witness to these events.

Using fossilised pollen and DNA extracted from gumleaves, Australian National University’s Mike Crisp and his colleagues deduced that fire probably contributed to transforming the prehistoric landscape from lush rainforest into dry eucalypt forest.

“The DNA alone won’t put a timescale on it; you need fossils of known age. That’s where the pollen comes in,” the Age quoted Crisp as saying.

“The trick is to work out where these fossils go on the evolutionary tree and when you’ve done that you can put the timeline on the tree and work out when things happened.”

The analysis of more than 100 pollen fossil samples led the team to believe that eucalypts developed the buds about 62 million years ago, dating the bushfire activity in Australia back to more than 60 million years ago.

“It means you have two lines of evidence pointing to fire originating at that time,” Crisp said.

“One is to do with the anatomy of the eucalypts and their ability to re-sprout, and the other to do with the kinds of habitat they grew in. And the timing was the same for both.”

The study is published today in the journal Nature Communications. (ANI)

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