Closed-canopy rainforests are a vital part of the Earth’s modern ecosystems, but tropical plants don’t preserve well in the fossil record so it is difficult to tell how long these habitats have existed and where rainforests might have once grown. Instead, scientists look to the diets of extinct animals, which lock evidence of the vegetation they ate into their teeth. A new study led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History finds that the paradigm used to identify closed-canopy rainforests through dietary signatures needs to be reassessed. The findings are published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The Amazon is the world’s most diverse rainforest, home to one in 10 known species on Earth,” said Julia Tejada-Lara, who led the study as a graduate student at the Museum and Columbia University. “Closed-canopy rainforests have been proposed to occur in this area