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Canada's tropical past unearthed, thanks in part to BU researcher

Brandon University's Dr. David Greenwood.

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Brandon University's Dr. David Greenwood.

A Brandon University biology professor is part of a research team that has confirmed an influential ecological theory that seeks to explain the diversity of life in the modern world.

David Greenwood, with Simon Fraser University evolutionary biologists Bruce Archibald and Rolf Mathewes, discovered that parts of Canada some 50 million years ago enjoyed tropical weather and a wider range of living organisms. Their findings have been published in the international scientific journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

"This is new proof," Greenwood says, "on an important hypothesis that fewer species live on temperate mountain tops because of the wide swing in seasonal temperature, whereas tropical mountains are highly diverse because migration between mountains is more difficult than in temperate areas."

The team studied fossil beds from British Columbia and Washington state, which provided a unique view into the warmer, less seasonal weather which previously enveloped much of the earth.

"These fossil beds were laid down during a time when little to no ice was present on the earth," Greenwood says. "We found great diversity amongst fossil insects across a wide range of sites, meaning the climate at the time was less seasonal — more like the tropics today — enabling more species to flourish."

Greenwood’s research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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