By Souls of Silver
The Medieval period had its own Little Ice Age from 1580 to 1850. Various factors combined to extend the ice cover over the continents. Glaciers in the Atlantic extended across the landscape of mostly green moss. Many species were trapped in the permafrost and the giant layers of ice entombed them for centuries until this century.
The Teardrop Glacier is on Canada’s Ellesmere Island. Since 1850, the moss lay frozen under an ice slab almost 100-foot-thick. Global warming has thrown up these trapped life forms after centuries under the ice as it begins to melt to reveal ancient moss.
Evolutionary biologist Catherine La Farge visited the receding edge of Teardrop and found this tuft of moss. It was all faded and torn but still retained a verdant hue from centuries ago. It was a definite sign of life among the blackened ancient moss.
Two straight years of frozen earth is termed as permafrost. Before this, bacteria were the only things to survive under permafrost. Our earth has a fragile ecosystem and this is further exposed during climate changes. UN reports say that over 1 million of our planet’s plant and animal life are on the verge of extinction. But a few species, including ancient moss, have shown an astonishing biological resilience to revive after staying under massive layers of ice for centuries.
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Even amidst the thawing, Arctic researchers are discovering organisms that can bear life anew. They had been frozen and presumed dead of millennia. And they cover the whole gamut from simple bacteria to multi-cellular animals. Their resilience is encouraging scientists to take a whole new look at the very definition of survival.
La Farge brought dozens of intriguing samples back to Edmonton where she lavished them with nutrient-rich soil in hot-houses. A third of the ancient moss samples sprouted new shoots and leaves. This stunned the scientists.
Adapting To The Ice-Age
The moss surviving under solid ice for centuries is nothing short of a miracle. Leave aside the cold, the sharp edges of ice crystals shred cell membranes and other vital parts of a plant. Most plants in the extreme cold region die out in winter and are only survived by their seeds.
Mosses dry up when temperatures fall sharply, thus saving their tissues from ice formation. Certain cells can also divide and differentiate into various tissue types and manage to survive even if part of the plant gets damaged. These adaptations are the reason that moss is more likely to survive than other plants.
This seems to be one of the few redeeming stories of global warming. While we are sure to lose many species forever in the next few decades, some life forms might also revive from under the melting ice.
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Scientists are discovering a whole new meaning to survival. Certain life forms might survive the harshest of winters and many life forms that were considered lost forever, including ancient moss, might come back in the not too distant future.
All these are indeed quite fascinating!
Share this article with your friends and family to let them know of the amazing discovery of this ancient moss!