PerspectivePaleontology

The impactful origin of neotropical rainforests

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Science  02 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6537, pp. 28-29
DOI: 10.1126/science.abh2086

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Summary

About 66 million years ago (Ma) , at the boundary of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K/Pg) period, a sudden mass extinction was triggered by the impact of a bolide, destroying an estimated three-quarters of Earth's plant and animal species. The long-term effects of this event varied across Earth, and little is known about the outcome in low-latitude regions of the world. On page 63 of this issue, Carvalho et al. (1) report analyses of fossil pollen and leaf data across the K/Pg boundary, ∼1500 km south of the Chicxulub crater left behind by the impact. They assessed plant diversity and structure in the lowland tropics before and after the catastrophe, put their interpretations into the broader context of flowering plant (angiosperm) evolution, and answer one of the biggest questions in paleobotany: When and how did the diverse, angiosperm-dominated, stratified tropical forests of South America emerge?

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