Antarctic plants and animal life survived ice ages

September 27, 2007

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.'
-end-
Issued by the British Antarctic Survey Press Office.

Linda Capper
tel: 44-1223-221448
mob: 07714-233744
email: l.capper@bas.ac.uk

Athena Dinar
tel: 44-1223-221414
mob: 07740-822229
email: a.dinar@bas.ac.uk

Author contacts:
Pete Convey, British Antarctic Survey
Tel: 01223-221588
email: p.convey@bas.ac.uk
Pete Convey is also Co-Chair of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Evolution and Biodiversity in Antarctica international research programme.

Mark I. Stevens, The Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University New Zealand.
Tel 64-6-350 5515 ext 7697/5412 (office/lab)
Mob: 64-0212135761
Email: m.i.stevens@massey.ac.nz

Notes for Editors

Stills and Broadcast quality footage of Antarctic ice sheets, mites and other invertebrates are available from the BAS Press Office.

British Antarctic Survey is a world leader in research into global issues in an Antarctic context. It is the UK's national operator and is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council. It has an annual budget of around £40 million, runs nine scientific programmes and operates five research stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica. More information about the work of the Survey can be found at: www.antarctica.ac.uk

Co-author institute details

The Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution is one of five New Zealand government-funded centres of research excellence (http://awcmee.massey.ac.nz/). Initially funded in 2002 for six years, the Centre has recently been awarded a further six years of funding. The Allan Wilson Centre is an interdisciplinary research centre capitalizing on the integration of mathematics and modern molecular biology for the benefit of New Zealand and wider scientific community and offers researchers the state of the art facilities to study all aspects of molecular evolution. Mark's research on Antarctic invertebrates is carried out in collaboration with colleagues at Waikato University, and is supported by research programs with Antarctica New Zealand (www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/) and the Australian Antarctic Division (www.aad.gov.au/). Mark also holds an honorary associate position in the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University, Australia.

PR contact:
Susan Adams
Tel: 64-6-350-5448
Mobile: 64-021-379-427
email s.i.adams@massey.ac.nz

British Antarctic Survey

Related Climate Models Articles from Brightsurf:

Polar ice, atmospheric water vapor biggest drivers of variation among climate models
A Florida State University researcher is part of a team that has found varying projections on global warming trends put forth by climate change scientists can be explained by differing models' predictions regarding ice loss and atmospheric water vapor.

Revising climate models with new aerosol field data
Advanced field measurements of how quickly aerosol particles are pulled out of the air can help improve climate predictions - and air quality forecasts.

Simpler models may be better for determining some climate risk
Typically, computer models of climate become more and more complex as researchers strive to capture more details of our Earth's system, but according to a team of Penn State researchers, to assess risks, less complex models, with their ability to better sample uncertainties, may be a better choice.

Atmospheric scientists study fires to resolve ice question in climate models
Black carbon from fires is an important short-term climate driver because it can affect the formation and composition of clouds.

New soil models may ease atmospheric CO2, climate change
To remove carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere in an effort to slow climate change, scientists must get their hands dirty and peek underground.

Patterns in permafrost soils could help climate change models
A team of scientists spent the past four summers measuring permafrost soils across a 5,000 square-mile swath of Alaska's North Slope.

Latest climate models show more intense droughts to come
An analysis of new climate model projections by Australian researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes shows southwestern Australia and parts of southern Australia will see longer and more intense droughts due to a lack of rainfall caused by climate change.

Some of the latest climate models provide unrealistically high projections of future warming
A new study from University of Michigan climate researchers concludes that some of the latest-generation climate models may be overly sensitive to carbon dioxide increases and therefore project future warming that is unrealistically high.

A Europe covered in grasslands or forests: innovation and research on climate models
An experiment to better understand how atmospheric variables respond to land use changes.

How tiny water droplets form can have a big impact on climate models
Droplets and bubbles are formed nearly everywhere, from boiling our morning coffee, to complex industrial processes and even volcanic eruptions.

Read More: Climate Models News and Climate Models Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.