Study: Jurassic ecosystems like today's

Jan. 8, 2013 at 4:14 PM
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DALLAS, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The Earth's ecosystems in the Jurassic period were similar to modern ones with animals flourishing, taking advantage of lush plant growth, U.S. researchers say.

In modern ecosystems animal populations do well in regions where the climate and landscape produce lush vegetation, and scientists at Southern Methodist University wanted to find out if the same relationship held true 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

"The assumption has been that ancient ecosystems worked just like our modern ecosystems," paleontologist Timothy S. Myers said in an SMU release Tuesday. "We wanted to see if this was, in fact, the case."

The researchers said analysis of carbon isotopes in fossil soils from the Late Jurassic indicated those soils contained high levels of carbon dioxide from vegetation.

The soils came from regions in North America, Europe and Africa where scientists previously have gathered animal fossils, and combining animal date with the known fossil sampling confirmed the modern relationship between animals and vegetation held true even millions of years ago, they said.

"Our analysis represents the first time that anyone has tried to apply ecological modeling to this relationship in the fossil record," Myers said.

"This not only provides a more complete picture of the ancient landscape and climate in which ancient animals lived," he said, "it also illustrates that climate and biota have been ecologically connected for many millions of years and that future human-caused changes to global climate will have profound impacts on plant and animal life around the world."

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