Fossils of plants and animals found in Chile's southernmost Magallanes region indicate that global cooling at the end of the Cretacean period "ushered in the extinction of dinosaurs," Chilean scientist Marcelo Leppe told Efe.
Climate change, as evidenced by geochemical signs and a reduction in the size of fossilized leaves, had an impact on the dinosaurs' vegetarian diet, reducing the numbers of different species of the giant reptiles.
Scientific findings in the Magallanes region seem to support a recent theory that by the end of the Cretacean period and before the impact of a meteorite in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula "there was a cooling phase that produced the Antarctic ice cap and a substantial drop in sea levels," Leppe said.
A paleontological expedition sponsored by the Chilean Antarctic Institute, or INACH, studied fossil remains found in Estancia Cerro Guido and Las Chinas in what Leppe describes as the "Rosetta stone" of paleontology.
"This remote spot with maritime and continental environments is a strategic point, providing us with a snapshot of a certain time in natural history," Leppe said.
In the region, there is a rich variety of fossilized vertebrates, including sauropoda and hydrosaurus, and reptiles such as plesiosaurus and mosasaurus.
There is also great diversity of fossilized plants, including "leaf prints that are very well preserved and tree trunks with growth rings that allow us to establish the impact of climate changes," he said.
The Cerro Guido-Las Chinas complex, one of the South America's five best places to study the era of dinosaurs, has sediment from different environments in the late Cretacean period, including deep sea levels - dating back 83 million to 72 million years in the Campanian - with invertebrates and marine reptiles, to coastline and continental landscapes with rivers and lagoons during the Maastrictchian 72 million to 66 million years ago.
An expedition this Southern Hemisphere summer organized by the INACH, Germany's Heidelberg University and Brazil's Unisinos University yielded new clues to the mysterious disappearance of giant sauria from the face of the Earth.