Earth Sciences and Ecology Question #9676

Noah, a 5 year old male from Vancouver asks on July 10, 2020,

I'd like to know if there were cherry trees in the time of the dinosaurs and if so did any dinosaurs eat them?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on July 11, 2020

Quick answer: no. 

The fossil record for the genus prunus, which is the major family that includes plums, apples, cherries, and even roses, begins in the early Eocene, which was already 10 million years after the dinosaurs went extinct. Here’s a paper with pictures of fossilized cherry tree leaves and other things from the Eocene. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225685781_A_brief_review_of_the_fossil_history_of_the_family_Rosaceae_with_a_focus_on_the_Eocene_Okanogan_Highlands_of_eastern_Washington_State_USA_and_British_Columbia_Canada
 
Even though there weren’t any dinosaurs left, there were still plenty of really strange animals during the eocene. Here’s a website where you can find pictures and even videos of some of the animals that lived back then about 50 million years ago. https://owlcation.com/stem/After-The-Dinosaurs-Life-In-The-Eocene
 
Interestingly, the Eocene epoch was a time on Earth when atmospheric CO2 was at much higher levels than right now on Earth, even with global warming. I’m not a climate denier or anything. For sure I believe we as a species are totally insane to be burning so much fossil fuel and faster and faster, as fast as we can. It’s total idiocy for so many reasons, but mainly because it’s a fabulous resource that can be used for all sorts of amazing things. Of all the things you can do with oil, burning has got to be the dumbest thing possible, especially when there are alternative ways to get energy, such as solar panels and windmills. We could save a lot of oil by switching everything possible to electric. 
 
During the Eocene, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was more than 560 parts per million, at least twice preindustrial levels today, and the epoch kicked off with a global average temperature more than 8 degrees C warmer than today, gradually cooling over the next 22 million years. Some records show CO2 levels as high as 4000ppm. This higher temperature Earth resulted in a fantastic flowering of life, including pretty much all life on Earth today as we know it. Cherry trees for sure. What’s more, it’s when the predecessors of humans first appeared on the planet. And whales. 
 
It’s for this reason that (if you look at the big picture) we should not get too worried about increased CO2 concentrations. It’s actually quite good for the planet. If you want to see evolution go crazy, come back in a few hundred thousand years when the poles are covered in jungles like they were back in the Eocene. I’m sure many more incredible life forms will evolve and appear, maybe things even better and more delicious than cherries. And by then perhaps humans will have evolved into something far better than we are today as well. I’m hopeful. 
 

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