Carlos D’Apolito’s project is a delicate balance between the giant and the tiny. To reconstruct the panorama of the Amazon biome in the last ice age, the biologist crosses fossil data from large mammals from the period with pollen grains, also fossilized. It is a valuable interdisciplinary approach that has the potential to shed light on the environmental history of the Amazon and how this region may have responded to climate change in the past. A biologist from the Federal University of Grande Dourados, Carlos also has a master’s in botany from the National Institute for Amazon Research and a doctorate in geosciences from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
With a trajectory that crosses several regions of Brazil, since childhood, the scientist has moved between the gigantic and the tiny. Two very clear memories reveal this tendency: selling honey at the market as a teenager and the film Jurassic Park as a child. Two initial steps in the adventure that he undertakes today: the bees and dinosaurs of the past are now the fossils of Amazonian megafauna and the pollen fossils in the soil sediments. Carlos likes to spend his free time in green areas. He also gardens to relax and always finds free time for his cats.
The south of the Amazon may have already been covered by dry forests, like those of the cerrado, thousands of years ago. In this project, we will seek to prove or reject this hypothesis by studying fossils accumulated in the southwest region of the biome. During the last glaciation, 115,000 to 11,000 years ago, the climate was colder and eventually drier in many parts of South America. These climates may have brought dry forests as far south as the Amazon, where fossils of large mammals such as mastodons, toxodonts and giant sloths are found. What type of environment did these animals live in? Carbon molecules preserved in bones and teeth are related to the types of plants consumed by these large mammals. Furthermore, fossil pollen grains preserved in sediments can be identified and associated with different vegetation types. By combining these approaches, we will attempt to reconstruct the landscapes in the southwestern Amazon during the last ice age, thus investigating the resilience of the forest to past climate changes.