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Species Were Survived By Volcanoes, Researchers Claim

Update Date: Mar 12, 2014 09:34 AM EDT

Active volcanoes are certainly harbingers of destruction but they might be responsible for our existence after the major Ice Age events, researchers said. 

Normally world knows about Antarctica for penguins but these are also home to wide range of invertebrates and interestingly more than half of them are not found anywhere else in the world. What's been a head-scratcher is how they managed to survive the deep freezes of ice ages that occurred as recently as 20,000 years ago. 

A team of international researchers have figured out the Antarctic survival strategy. After looking at the vast biodiversity records kept by Antarctic research camps on species of mosses, lichens and insects they concluded the strategy. Surprisingly they found that closer you get to an Antarctic volcano, the more bio-diverse it got.

"Volcanic steam can melt large ice caves under the glaciers, and it can be tens of degrees warmer in there than outside. Caves and warm steam fields would have been great places for species to hang out during ice ages," Australian National University researcher Ceridwen Fraser said in a statement Monday, according to IB Times.

"Despite volcanic geothermal regions typically having greater pH and mineralization of soils than nongeothermal regions, many species found in such areas are more broadly distributed and appear simply to capitalize on the warming and water availability provided by geothermal activity," Fraser and colleagues wrote Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers hoped their research will prove to be helpful in future conservation efforts in Antarctica. 

"We can learn a lot from looking at the impacts of past climate change as we try to deal with the accelerated change that humans are now causing," Fraser added. 

The findings of the research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

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