A quick blurb about a paper published in Geology this week by myself and colleagues, Michael Benton of the University of Bristol and Howard Falcon-Lang of Royal Holloway, University of London.
300 million years ago in the Carboniferous, the Continent of Euramerica (Europe and North America) lay over the equator and steamy tropical rainforests supports a great abundance of life. The primary vertebrates were amphibians, overshadowing recently evolved reptiles.
As the climate changed and became drier, rainforests fragmented, forming isolated 'islands' of forest. The changing climate, specifically the loss of humidity was bad for amphibians since they are tied to waterside habitats. However, reptiles, which have specific features allowing them to live in drier conditions began to dominate communities. Additionally, the fragmented nature of the landscape created endemism, that is unique populations of reptiles which increased their diversity.
Changes in climate and environment through slow earth process gives animals time to adjust and thrive in a new environment, shifting balances and even increasing diversity, but the rapid changes in our environment driven by human impact must be regarded with great caution since animals are often driven to endangerment and extinction before they have a chance to adjust to the change in conditions.
Read more at:
Sahney, S., Benton, M.J. & Falcon-Lang, H.J. 2010 Rainforest collapse triggered Pennsylvanian tetrapod diversification in Euramerica. Geology. 38: 1079-1082.
Again, thank you to everyone who has provided feedback and some critical thinking towards the research.