Rainforest collapse in prehistoric times changed the course of evolution

General Article icon Type: General Article

Emma Dunne, University of Birmingham

Over 750,000 square kilometres of Amazon rainforest have been cleared since 1970 – a fifth of the total. As a result, many of the animals that live there are threatened with extinction. But this isn’t the first time the Earth has seen its rainforests shrink. Toward the end of the Carboniferous period, around 307m years ago, the planet’s environment shifted dramatically, and its vast tropical rainforests vanished.

Palaeontologists have previously struggled to work out how this rainforest collapse affected the first ancient vertebrate animals that lived there &ndas

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