New research has shown that raging wildfires ravaged Antarctica 75 million years ago, when dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth. The research is published in the journal Polar Research.

During the Late Cretaceous (100 to 66 million years ago), one of the warmest periods on Earth, James Ross Island in Antarctica was green. Conifers, ferns, flowering plants and dinosaurs lived there. However, ancient fires completely burned away part of the green canopy, leaving behind traces of charcoal that scientists have collected and studied.

“This discovery expands knowledge of the origins of Cretaceous fires. It turned out to be happening more often than previously thought, ”said lead researcher Flaviana Jorge de Lima, a paleobiologist at the Federal University of Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil.

The find is the first recorded evidence of a paleofire on James Ross Island, part of the Antarctic Peninsula that is now under South America. The study proves that spontaneous fires were common in Antarctica during the Campanian era (roughly 84 to 72 million years ago). In 2015, scientists documented the first known evidence of dinosaur-era wildfires in West Antarctica. The results are published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

For the new work, an international team of scientists analyzed the fossils collected during the 2015-2016 expedition in the northeastern part of James Ross Island. These fossils contained plant fragments, similar to the remains of charcoal, that had been weathered over the past tens of millions of years.