Congo Basin was arid and treeless about 150 to 200 million years ago

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Washington, November 11 (ANI): A new geochemical analysis of rare ancient soils has led scientists to suggest that about different 150 million to 200 million years ago, the Congo Basin was arid, with a small amount of seasonal rainfall, and few bushes or trees populated the landscape.

The geochemical analysis provides new data for the Jurassic period, when very little is known about Central Africa's paleoclimate, according to Timothy S. Myers, a paleontology doctoral student in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas.

"There aren't a whole lot of terrestrial deposits from that time period preserved in Central Africa," Myers said.

"Scientists have been looking at Africa's paleoclimate for some time, but data from this time period is unique," he added.

Myers' research is based on a core sample drilled by a syndicate interested in the oil and mineral deposits in the Congo Basin.

Myers accessed the sample - drilled from a depth of more than 2 kilometers - from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, where it is housed.

With the permission of the museum, he analyzed pieces of the core at the SMU Huffington Department of Earth Sciences Isotope Laboratory.

The Samba borehole, as it's known, was drilled near the center of the Congo Basin.

Myers' results are consistent with data from other low paleolatitude, continental, Upper Jurassic deposits in Africa and with regional projections of paleoclimate generated by general circulation models.

"It provides a good context for the vertebrate fossils found in Central Africa," Myers said.

"At times, any indications of the paleoclimate are listed as an afterthought, because climate is more abstract. But it's important because it yields data about the ecological conditions," he added.

While there was no evidence of terrestrial vertebrates in the deposits that Myers studied, dinosaurs were present in Africa at the same time.

Their fossils appear in places that were once closer to the coast and probably wetter and more hospitable.

Myers found minerals indicative of an extremely arid climate typical of a marshy, saline environment.

With the Congo Basin at the center of Gondwana, humid marine air from the coasts would have lost much of its moisture content by the time it reached the interior of the massive continent.

"There probably wouldn't have been a whole lot of trees; more scrubby kinds of plants," Myers said. (ANI)

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