In the Carboniferous period, North America and Europe lay at the equator and were covered by steamy rainforest.
Global warming is thought to have brought about the collapse of these tropical habitats, triggering an evolutionary burst among reptiles.
The work, by a British team, is published in the journal Geology.
The forests that covered the ancient supercontinent of Euramerica are colloquially referred to as the Coal Forests.
hey are so called because they accumulated a large amount of peat, which later turned into the coal that is mined today.
Towards the end of the Carboniferous, the Earth's climate is thought to have grown hotter and drier.
"Climate change caused rainforests to fragment into small 'islands' of forest," said co-author Howard Falcon-Lang, from Royal Holloway, University of London.
Dr Falcon-Lang continued: "This isolated populations of reptiles, and each community evolved in separate directions, leading to an increase in diversity."
To reach their conclusions, the scientists studied the fossil record of reptiles before and after the collapse of the rainforests.
They showed that reptiles became more diverse and even changed their diets as they struggled to adapt to a rapidly changing climate and environment.
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Posted by Dinosaurs World at 9:57 PM