Saturday, January 16, 2021

Scientists discover evidence for 90 million-year-old rainforest beneath Icy Antarctica

Antarctica could be a luscious rainforest around 90 million-years-ago!

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Mary Woods
Mary Woods
A news media professional with strong experience in online journalism, content management, and social media. Dwayne’s strength includes the sound knowledge of the environment and nature. Mary manages the Environment based news coverage on The News Recorder.

Antarctica, the ice bucket of this planet might have hosted millions of lives years ago. It seems unbelievable? yeah right! A recent soil test is done at Antarctica projects a probability for the presence of luscious rainforests around 90 million-years-ago.

Science Daily notes some British and German scientists examined the soil samples extracted from the ocean bottom using a machine drill on a research ship neat Pine Island in the Amundsen Sea. And the details for the study of this soil sample were published in Nature magazine earlier this week which hints that the sample contains alluvions and thin kaolin which is almost 90 million years old.

Two scientists and their team examined the samples with computer tomography devices which resulted in the presence of preserved samples of soil, pollen, seeds and even tree roots.

“That this 90 million-year-old rainforest is preserved is quite exceptional, but what it represents is much more remarkable,” said research team member Tina van de Flierdt. “Even in dark months, swamp rainforests could grow in an area close to the South Pole. This shows a more temperate climate than we have estimated until now,” she said.

Research also hints that the level of carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere during the Cretaceous Era, approximately 115 to 80 million years ago, was supposed to be higher than estimated.

The mid-Cretaceous period was the time of dinosaurs but was also the warmest period in the past 140 million years, with temperature in the tropics as high as 35 degrees Celcius and sea level 170 meter higher than today.

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“The preservation of this 90-million-year-old forest is exceptional, but even more surprising is the world it reveals,” said Professor Tina van de Flierdt, a researcher in the Department of Earth Science & Engineering at Imperial College London.

“Even during months of darkness, swampy temperate rainforests were able to grow close to the South Pole, revealing an even warmer climate than we expected.”

“During the initial shipboard assessments, the unusual coloration of the sediment layer quickly caught our attention; it clearly differed from the layers above it,” said Dr. Johann Klages, a geologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research.

Example microscopic images from thin sections of 90-million-year-old fossil roots: (a) overview scan of root fragment with indicated locations of detailed microscopic images (b-e); white arrows indicate the locations of preserved parenchyma storage cells, including potential aerenchyma gas exchange cells (d). Scale bar in (d) applies to (b-e). Image credit: Klages et al, doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2148-5.

They added that the team then scanned the section of the core and found a 3-meter long of a network of fossil roots that was well preserved. And the sample contained countless traces of pollen and spores from the plants, including the first remnants of flowering plants ever found on these high latitudes of icy Antarctica.

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“The numerous plant remains indicate that 93 to 83 million years ago the coast of West Antarctica was a swampy landscape in which temperate rainforests grew — similar to the forests that can still be found, say, on New Zealand’s South Island,” said Professor Ulrich Salzmann, a paleoecologist at Northumbria University.

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