Ecology: Reptiles rose after forests died

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The disappearance of vast tracts of tropical forest some 305 million years ago led to an explosion in the global diversity of reptiles and amphibians, thanks to the emergence of many new, fragmented habitats.

Howard Falcon-Lang at Royal Holloway, University of London, in Surrey, UK, and his colleagues compared the distribution and diversity of these animals in the fossil record. During the period they studied, climate change dried up equatorial rainforests in the land mass that later became Europe and North America.

Many of the species that lived across these forests became extinct, and were replaced by a wealth of different types of reptile and amphibian that were particular to isolated habitats. Amphibians, which depend on aquatic environments, fared less well than reptiles, which were able to adapt to a drier world.

Geology 38, 10791082 (2010)

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