Scientists exploring a distant area of Antarctica have found proof of a 260 million-year-old forest, recovering fossilized tree fragments from the frozen floor of the Transantarctic Mountains.
The forest would have existed earlier than the Great Dying Mbad Extinction Event 252 million years in the past—an occasion that noticed round 95 % of life on Earth worn out. This mbad extinction—the worst in Earth’s historical past—is believed to have been attributable to big, extended volcanic eruptions in Siberia, which induced world temperatures to skyrocket. Around 20 million years later, the primary dinosaurs began to emerge.
To higher perceive this extinction occasion, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee headed to a mountain vary in Antarctica to search for samples of vegetation from when the continent was far hotter and was coated in lush vegetation.
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View of the Transantarctic Mountains. NASA/Michael Studinger
At the tip of the Permian interval, 250 million years in the past, Antarctica was joined onto the supercontinent Gondwana. This landmbad additionally included Africa, Australia, India and South America. It would have been far hotter and extra humid, with crops like mosses and ferns protecting the panorama.
Researchers had been looking for these crops so as to perceive how the local weather modified throughout this era. Understanding shifts in world temperatures will enable scientists to construct a greater image of what occurred to make the mbad extinction so catastrophic.
During their expedition, the group discovered 13 items of fossilized tree. Dating confirmed the timber had been over 260 million years previous. “This forest is a glimpse of life before the extinction, which can help us understand what caused the event,” geologist Erik Gulbranson, who was a part of the expedition group, mentioned in a press release.
Map exhibiting the supercontinents Gondwana and Laurasia. LennyWikidata/cc
The prehistoric forest, he mentioned, would have had a reasonably low variety of species in comparison with forests we see at this time. “This plant group must have been capable of surviving and thriving in a variety of environments,” Gulbranson mentioned. Even within the hotter local weather presently, the crops would have skilled months of darkness as a consequence of Antarctica’s latitude.
These crops didn’t survive the Great Dying mbad extinction. Gulbranson will return to the location on the finish of November and he plans to remain there till January 2018. During this time he plans to check the crops additional to work out precisely how the crops responded to the sudden environmental modifications “The geologic record shows us the beginning, middle and end of climate change events,” he mentioned. “With further study, we can better understand how greenhouse gases and climate change affect life on Earth.”