Dinosaurs were surrounded by constant fires

Illustration for article titled Dinosaurs were surrounded by constant fires

Dinosaurs once ruled the Earth — but now it appears they ruled in Hell. Ancient charcoal deposits suggest wildfires ran rampant throughout the Cretaceous period, meaning dinosaurs had to spend 80 million years looking out for the next inferno.


So just why was the Cretaceous so fiery? According to researchers from London's Royal Holloway University and Chicago's Field Museum, there were two major reasons. First, the greenhouse effect was actually stronger back then than it is today, and this mean global temperatures were hotter. In such a world, random lightning strikes were much more likely to start fires than they are now. It also didn't help that there was actually more oxygen in the atmosphere in the Cretaceous than there is now, and that made the air itself more combustible.

Unlike today, where you generally need drought conditions to take hold before wildfires become a serious problem, the Cretaceous — which lasted from about 145 to 65 million years ago — was hot enough and had high enough oxygen levels that even very moist plants could easily burn. As Royal Holloway Professor Andrew C. Scott explains, these constant fires would have wrought havoc on the Cretaceous environment, "not only destroying the vegetation, but also exacerbating run-off and erosion and promoting subsequent flooding following storms."


The researchers were able to track the role of ancient fire through charcoal deposits in the fossil record. These signs of ancient fires are practically omnipresent in Cretaceous dinosaur deposits. Exactly how these fires would have affected the behavior of the dinosaurs is still an open question, but I think we do now know one thing for certain - Terra Nova would have been way more enjoyable if everything kept randomly catching on fire.

Via Cretaceous Research. Image by photobank.kiev.ua, via Shutterstock.

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Well, I think this balances out learning that Tyrannosaurs had cuddly feathers all over them and that Triceratops were just young Torosaurs and many of the other new discoveries that have shattered our eight-year-old selves' views of the awesome world of dinosaurs...