Research Article

Extinction at the end-Cretaceous and the origin of modern Neotropical rainforests

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Science  02 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6537, pp. 63-68
DOI: 10.1126/science.abf1969

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The birth of modern rainforests

The origin of modern rainforests can be traced to the aftermath of the bolide impact at the end of the Cretaceous. Carvalho et al. used fossilized pollen and leaves to characterize the changes that took place in northern South American forests at this time (see the Perspective by Jacobs and Currano). They not only found changes in species composition but were also able to infer changes in forest structure. Extinctions were widespread, especially among gymnosperms. Angiosperm taxa came to dominate the forests over the 6 million years of recovery, when the flora began to resemble that of modern lowland neotropical forest. The leaf data also imply that the forest canopy evolved from relatively open to closed and layered, leading to increased vertical stratification and a greater diversity of plant growth forms.

Science, this issue p. 63; see also p. 28

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