Antarctic plants and animal life survived ice ages

September 27, 2007
Antarctic Springtail
Antarctic springtail - Cryptopygus antarcticus. False colour, scanning electron-micrograph. Cryptopygus is one of the most successful terrestrial arthropods to have colonised the Antarctic continent. Although only 1-2 mm long and weighing only a few micro-grams, it is one of the largest animals to complete its lifecycle on the Antarctic continent. Credit: Pete Bucktrout

Springtails, mites, worms and plant life could help solve the mystery of Antarctica’s glacial history according to new research published in the journal Science this week.

Scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Massey University New Zealand report that of the evolutionary history of Antarctica’s terrestrial plant and animal life does not reconcile with current reconstructions of past glacial ice extent going back more than 23 million years.

In today’s warm period less than 1 percent of Antarctica is ice-free. It has been assumed that during ice ages there was insufficient ice-free land for Antarctic plant and animal species to survive and evolve. However scientists report that an exceptional long-term evolutionary persistence, isolation, and a striking capability to survive global climate change, appear to be the ‘norm’ rather than the exception for the terrestrial world.

Pete Convey of BAS said, ‘Because these groups of invertebrates, plants and microbes occupy such a tiny part of a huge continent climate scientists have tended to ignore them. But recent advances in molecular biology and biogeography show us that they are indeed significant when you are trying to reconstruct a picture of the Earth’s glacial history. It is important now for us to work together with scientists from all disciplines to integrate this new biological evidence in glaciological and climate models. It will help answer the big global questions about past and future climate change and be a valuable contribution to International Polar Year 2007-2008.’

Source: British Antarctic Survey

Explore further: Antarctic life – highly diverse, unusually structured

Related Stories

Antarctic life – highly diverse, unusually structured

June 25, 2015

The variety of plant and animal life in the Antarctic is much greater than previously thought, reveals an assessment of Antarctic biodiversity published by a team of scientists in the journal Nature this week.

DNA barcoding discloses Antarctic sponge diversity

June 25, 2015

Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have used DNA barcoding to elucidate the diversity of the sponge fauna found in Antarctic waters. The data provide new insights into the evolution of this poorly ...

Recommended for you

Playing 'tag' with pollution lets scientists see who's 'it'

July 29, 2015

Using a climate model that can tag sources of soot from different global regions and can track where it lands on the Tibetan Plateau, researchers have determined which areas around the plateau contribute the most soot—and ...

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.