05 Dec 2022
05 Dec 2022

The emergence of the tropical rainforest biome in the Cretaceous

Clément Coiffard1, Haytham El Atfy2,3, Johan Renaudie4, Robert Bussert5, and Dieter Uhl6 Clément Coiffard et al.
  • 1Structural and Functional Plant Diversity Group, Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, Altensteinstraße 6, 14195 Berlin, Germany
  • 2Department of Geosciences, University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
  • 3Geology Department, Faculty of Science, Mansoura University, 35516 Mansoura, Egypt
  • 4Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Invalidenstraße 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany
  • 5Institute of Applied Geosciences, Technische Universität Berlin, 10587 Berlin, Germany
  • 6Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, 60325 Frankfurt a.M., Germany

Abstract. Modern tropical rain forests (TRF) are one of the most ecologically important and species-rich biomes on the planet. However, the origin of modern TRF is still debated, especially due to the incongruence between the fossil record and molecular data. Here, we are testing whether Campanian assemblages from north-eastern Africa could represent fossil TRF vegetation. In so doing, we compare the investigated assemblages with other assemblages known to represent temperate forests, subtropical forests, and TRF in terms of leaf physiognomy, species richness, and taxonomic composition. We assume that modern-looking TRF already existed about 80 Ma ago during the Campanian in north-eastern Africa based on fossil leaves in an area corresponding to 10 % of the modern Amazonian or 25 % of the Congolese TRF. The apparent conflict between the fossil record and phylogenetic evidence is due to the more or less absence of published tropical floras for the Cretaceous.

Clément Coiffard et al.

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Clément Coiffard et al.

Clément Coiffard et al.


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Short summary
Eighty Ma old fossil leaf assemblages suggest a widespread distribution of tropical rainforest in north-eastern Africa.