To view a map or images of Cenozoic leaf fossils from Jacobs' field work in Africa go to SMU Research on flickr.
More scientific exploration needed to fill gaps
Scientific exploration to learn more about Africa's ancient vegetation is on the increase, say Jacobs and her co-authors. That should start to fill gaps in understanding, including the mystery of Africa's palms.
While palm trees are common in wet tropical forests worldwide, that's not the case in Africa today. Palm trees have not been found in abundance in Africa for the past 24 million years, regardless of whether the regional vegetation was forest, say the authors. Oddly, though, abundant palm samples have been found in some African locations dating between 65 million and 25 million years ago, including at Chilga in Ethiopia by Jacobs and Pan.
The implications of that difference are significant for the various endemic mammals of that time, many of which were absent by 23 million years ago, say the authors.
"We are fortunate that the sampling scale of most fossil localities is at the plant community level, and larger-scale changes took place one community at a time," they write. "Thus, as Africa becomes better sampled, the uneven record will ultimately become a more complete narrative of dynamic change at the community and ecosystem levels."
|Contact: Margaret Allen|
Southern Methodist University