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Evidence found of neotropical rainforest

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists working in Colombia say they have unearthed the first megafossil evidence of a neotropical rainforest.

Researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute said the evidence of a rainforest that existed at temperatures up to 5 degrees Celsius higher than rainforest conditions today suggests rainforests flourished during warm periods.

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"Modern neotropical rainforests, with their palms and spectacular flowering-plant diversity, seem to have come into existence in the Paleocene epoch, shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago," said Carlos Jaramillo, a Smithsonian staff scientist. "We find new plant families, large, smooth-margined leaves and a three-tiered structure of forest floor, understory shrubs and high canopy."

Scott Wing, a paleontologist from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, described the evidence found in Colombia's Cerrejon mining operation as "the first clear window we have to see back in time to the Paleocene, when the neotropical rainforest was first developing."

The research appears in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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