South America served as refuge for species during mass extinction: researchers find

Some Southern Hemisphere regions like South America served as a type of refuge for species at the time of the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-Pg) extinction event that killed as much as three-quarters of life on Earth, a new study suggested.

A team of paleontologists led by Michael Donovan, a PhD student at Pennsylvania State University, studied fossils and determined that there was an extinction event in South America at the same time as a similar event occurred in North America.

But, South America's extinction event was not as massive as that of North America. Life in South America recovered in less than half the time it took in the North American region. Species survived in South America gradually went on to repopulate the globe.

However, the fossils studied by the researchers weren't the bones of ancient animals like dinosaurs; instead they were leaves of plants.

Regan Dunn, a paleo-botanist from the Chicago-based Field Museum of Natural History, said, "Plants deserve just as much attention as the major dinosaur finds. They can tell us so much more than a single dinosaur fossil can tell us about ancient environments."

The paleontologists detailed their findings in a paper published in the Nov. 7th edition of the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.