The landscape of Central Africa 65 million years ago was a low-elevation tropical belt, but the jury is still out on whether the region's mammals browsed and hunted beneath the canopy of a lush rainforest.
The scientific evidence for a tropical rainforest at that time is weak and far from convincing, says paleobotanist Bonnie F. Jacobs at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Fossil pollen from Central and West Africa provide no definitive evidence for communities of rainforest trees at the beginning of the Cenozoic, says Jacobs, an expert in the paleobotany of Africa soon after dinosaurs had gone extinct. It was the start of the age of mammals, and Africa was largely an island continent.
Many Cenozoic mysteries remain to be solved
The rainforest mystery is characteristic of the scientific uncertainty and unknowns surrounding Africa's ancient flora during the period called the Cenozoic. There are large gaps in the fossil record, says Jacobs, a co-author of "A Review of the Cenozoic Vegetation History of Africa." She is an associate professor in SMU's Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences.
The review, a chapter in "Cenozoic Mammals of Africa" (University of California Press, 2010), is the first of its kind since 1978 to review and interpret the Cenozoic paleobotanical record of Africa with paleogeographic maps showing paleobotanical site distributions through time. Jacobs co-authored the paper with Aaron D. Pan, a paleobotanist at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and Christopher R. Scotese, in the Earth Sciences Department at the University of Texas at Arlington.
The 1008-page "Cenozoic Mammals of Africa" is the first comprehensive scientific reference of its kind since 1978, comprising 48 chapters by 64 experts. The volume summarizes and interprets the published fossil research to date of Africa's mammals, tectonics, geography, climate and flora of the past 65 million years.
|Contact: Margaret Allen|
Southern Methodist University