'Dinosaurs roamed among pine trees in Arctic 100mn years ago'

Dinosaurs may have roamed among pine trees in the Arctic covered with weird monkey puzzle forests some 100 million years ago, a new study has claimed.

Drawing up the first realistic picture of the fauna in the age of the dinosaurs, researchers from the Royal Holloway University of London claimed that about 100 million years ago, the polar-regions had a climate similar to Britain today.

Just before the extinction of dinosaurs the picture changed again, with magnolia-type trees springing into life bringing blossom and scent to the world for the first time, the researchers reported in the journal Geology.

The findings have implications for understanding the long-term effects of global warming, they added.

To create the maps, the scientists created a database of all fossilised forests ever found and plotted their position.

Study author Emiliano Peralta-Medina said: "Our research shows that weird monkey puzzle forests covered most of the planet, especially in the steamy tropics."

"At mid-latitudes, there were dry cypress woodlands, and near the North Pole, it was mostly pines," Peralta-Medina was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

"Just before the dinosaurs became extinct, all that changed. Flowering trees similar to magnolias took off, bringing colour and scent to the world for the first time."

Studying fossilised tree rings, the team discovered that trees were growing twice as fast as their modern ancestors, with the greatest effect closest to the poles.

"Some of our fossil trees from Antarctica had rings more than two millimetres wide on average," explained co-author Dr Howard Falcon-Lang.

"Such a rate of growth is usually only seen in trees growing in temperate climates. It tells us that, during the age of the dinosaurs, polar-regions had a climate similar to Britain today."

The reason, Dr Falcon-Lang said, was the high levels of carbon monoxide -- almost three times the level today. But we could see a return to those levels if climate change is not reversed, he said.

"If carbon dioxide concentrations continue to rise unabated, we will hit Cretaceous levels in less than 250 years. If that happens, we could see a return of forests to Antarctica," he said.

"However, it's unlikely that dinosaurs will be making a comeback," he added.

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