Though Antarctica may be a frozen wasteland today, it wasn’t always such, according to scientists. They believed that, around 260 million years ago, it was covered with lush green forests.
Now, they believe they’ve found evidence of that theory.
Millions of years ago, when the continent was still part of the Gondwana landmass in the Southern Hemisphere, trees grew in the area. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are now studying fossilized remains of the trees, in an effort to understand how our planet has changed over the millennia.
The trees, they found, existed around the Permian Period, before the first dinosaurs, when the Antarctic was warmer. Scientists say there was a massive increase in greenhouse gases, likely thanks to a volcanic eruption in modern-day Siberia, that kicked off an extinction event, causing the fossils to eventually be trapped under the ice.
“People have known about the fossils in Antarctica since the 1910 – 1912 Robert Falcon Scott expedition,” one of the team’s paleoecologists Erik Gulbranson said. “However, most of Antarctica is still unexplored. Sometimes, you might be the first person to ever climb a particular mountain.”
He says the trees at the time would have been incredibly resilient, having adapted to months of darkness and going dormant in the winter. In fact, just how these trees hibernated is one of the answers scientists believe these fossils might provide. In fact, they believe these trees were able to switch between a growing phase and dormancy incredibly fast, like the flick of a switch.
Just 13 tree fossils have been found so far which, along with analysis of rocks in their vicinity, might provide some answers. “This forest is a glimpse of life before the extinction, which can help us understand what caused the event,” says Gulbranson.
Source of news : Indiatimes