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All of this changed with the origin of land plants from their pond scum relatives, greening the continents and creating habitats that animals would later invade.
The timing of this episode has previously relied on the oldest fossil plants which are about 420 million years old.
New - Research - Today - Proceedings - National
New research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that these events actually occurred a hundred million years earlier, changing perceptions of the evolution of the Earth's biosphere.
Plants are major contributors to the chemical weathering of continental rocks, a key process in the carbon cycle that regulates Earth's atmosphere and climate over millions of years.
Team - Clock - Methodology - Evidence - Differences
The team used 'molecular clock' methodology, which combined evidence on the genetic differences between living species and fossil constraints on the age of their shared ancestors, to establish an evolutionary timescale that sees through the gaps in the fossil record.
Dr Jennifer Morris, from the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences and co-lead author on the study, explained: "The global spread of plants and their adaptations to life on land, led to an increase in continental weathering rates that ultimately resulted in a dramatic decrease the levels of the 'greenhouse gas' carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global cooling.
Attempts - Changes - Atmosphere - Plant - Fossil
"Previous attempts to model these changes in the atmosphere have accepted the plant fossil record at face value --...
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