Rare dragonfly fossils could teach us about climate change

A fossilized dragonfly

(CNN)Rare dragonfly fossils dating from about 50 million years ago show how life recovered after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs and could benefit our understanding of climate change.

Canadian scientist Bruce Archibald, who examined the fossilized remains of the insects, said the dragonflies would have lived in a period of increasing atmospheric carbon and higher global temperatures.
"These fossil sites in British Columbia and northern Washington provide an unusually clear window into forest ecosystems in a cool upland during a time of hot global climates with high atmospheric carbon.
"There were palm trees at times growing in this temperate upland of British Columbia, in fact, at times growing right up to the Arctic Ocean."
    The wing of the new fossil dragonfly species Eoshna thompsonensis from the 53-million-year-old McAbee fossil beds. The name refers to the Thompson River in British Columbia, Canada, which fossil site overlooks.
    Archibald, a research associate from Simon Fraser University, worked with another dragonfly expert, Robert Cannings, a curator of entomology at Royal BC Museum and they examined nine dragonfly fossils from the McAbee fossil site in Canada's British Columbia and from the town of Republic in northern Washington state in the US. These fossil beds preserve a record of life just over a dozen million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
    "These dragonflies help fill in the picture of the emerging modern world that we know today when it was experiencing a very different climatic regime: a temperate upland in a warm world with winters so mild as to lack frost days," Archibald said.
    "If we want to know where we're headed in the future in a planet with increasing atmospheric carbon and higher global temperatures, it will be good to look to the past," he added.
    The wing of a new species of darner dragonfly from the 53-million-year-old McAbee fossil beds near Cache Creek, BC, Canada, which does not have enough detail preserved to formally name.