In the current issue of the journal Science, researchers are reporting that tropical rain forests thrived during a period of global warming almost 60 million years ago. Two of the paper’s authors have ties to Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Dr. Carolos Jaramillo, the lead author, earned a master’s degree in geology and geophysics from Missouri S&T in 1995. He is currently a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. In 2009, in the journal Nature, Jaramillo and colleagues reported the discovery of bones from what is believed to be the largest snake to slither the earth. The constrictor, which they named Titanoboa, was about 50-feet long.
Titanoboa lived approximately 56 million years ago, when the world was going through a quick period of warming. Temperatures went up 3 to 5 degrees Celsius in about 10,000 years. Carbon levels doubled. The warm conditions lasted about 200,000 years.
Contrary to speculation that tropical forests could be devastated by rapid global warming, the researchers found that forest diversity also increased rapidly during this past warming event. New plant species were added to the existing pool of vegetation. The Science researchers examined pollen trapped in rock cores and outcrops — from Colombia and Venezuela — to form their conclusions.
Guillermo Rodriguez, one of the co-authors who contributed to the Science study, is on track to earn his master’s degree in geology and geophysics from Missouri S&T this December. He is also a palynologist at the Colombian Petroleum Institute.