BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 24 (UPI) — Scientists say Arctic regions of Earth were inhabited 50 million years ago by animals not usually associated with the area today, like tortoises and alligators.
Researchers from the University of Colorado say fossil evidence explains how the creatures thrived on Ellesmere Island well north of the Arctic Circle during the Eocene era, even enduring the six months of darkness every year, a university release said Tuesday.
Study of bone and tooth fossils showed the average temperatures of the warmest month on Ellesmere Island then were from 66 to 68, while the coldest month temperature was about 32 to 38.
“Our data gathered from multiple organisms indicate it probably did not get below freezing on Ellesmere Island during the early Eocene, which has some interesting implications,” Jaelyn Eberle of the department of geological sciences said.
During the era, Ellesmere Island — adjacent to Greenland — was likely similar to swampy cypress forests in the southeastern United States today, Eberle said.
Today Ellesmere Island is one of the coldest, driest environments on Earth, with tundra, permafrost, ice sheets, sparse vegetation and few mammals.
The temperatures range from roughly minus 37 in winter to 48 in summer.
The University of Colorado findings were published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
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