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Researchers Discover Moss That Still Lives After 1500 Years Being Buried In Antarctic Ice

Update Date: Mar 18, 2014 11:39 AM EDT

Researchers have recently discovered a kind of moss in Antarctica that can survive after being trapped under ice for over 1,500 years. 

Prior, only microbes were known to carry such capability of thousand-year feats of revivals. 

"These mosses were basically in a very long-term deep freeze," said study author Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey in the press release. "This timescale of survival and recovery is much, much longer than anything reported for them before."

As mosses were main land producers in southern and northern polar regions, the discovery might lead to particular relevancy for Antarctic ecosystems and climate, the scientist added. 

"What mosses do in the ecosystem is far more important than we would generally realise when we look at a moss on a wall here for instance," Convey said. "Understanding what controls their growth and distribution, particularly in a fast-changing part of the world such as the Antarctic Peninsula region, is therefore of much wider significance."

Convey and his team took cores of moss from an icy moss bank lying deep in the Antarctic. They sliced the frozen moss cores meticulously and positioned them inside an incubator perfect for normal growth temperature and light level. They noticed that after few week, moss began to grow again. 

"The potential clearly exists for much longer survival-although viability between successive interglacials would require a period of at least tens of thousands of years," the researchers wrote. "Such a possibility provides an entirely new survival mechanism and a refugium for a major element of the polar terrestrial biota."

Researchers concluded that these polar mosses may be able to persist even longer than 1,500 years.

"Although it would be a big jump from the current finding, this does raise the possibility of complex life forms surviving even longer periods once encased in permafrost or ice," Convey noted.

The study has been published in journal Current Biology.

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