Evidence for Low Temperatures and Biologic Diversity in Cretaceous High Latitudes of Australia

Science  09 Dec 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4884, pp. 1403-1406
DOI: 10.1126/science.242.4884.1403


A diverse terrestial biota inhabited polar latitudes during the Cretacous, 105 to 130 Ma (million years ago), along what is now the southeast coast of Australia This biota, from rocks in the Otway and Strzelecki groups, cnsisted of more than 150 taxa of vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants. Oxygen isotope ratios in diagenetic calcite suggest that mean annual temperatures were most likely less than 5°C, and rings present in the fossil araucarian-podocarp-ginko woods indicate saonality. Southeastern Austalia, thus, seems to have had a cool, seasonal, nontropical climate. Dinosaurs that have been recovered are up to five species and three genera of hypsilophodontids, all of which were endemic, and three species of theropods. The occurrence of Allosaurus sp. and labyrinthodont amphibians, which had become extinct elsewhere in the Jurassic, indicate that isolation may have allowed extended surival of these taxa in Australia. In that dinosaurs coped with high latitude for at least 65 million years [Valaginian to Albian time in Australia and Campanian to Maastrictian time (80 to 65 Ma) in Alaska] suggests that cold and darkness may not have been prime factors bringing about the extinction of dinosaurs and some other groups at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, unless they were prolonged.