TWIFT | Lifestyle | 90-Million-Year-Old Rainforest Beneath The Ice

90-Million-Year-Old Rainforest Beneath The Ice

Just imagine that Earth’s southernmost continent is suggested to be a past habitat for various species and approximately 65 types of plants. According to recent findings, it was once covered by temperate, swampy rainforests. You might be asking so what? Now dummies, keep reading the article.

Holy Cow, Antarctica has not always been just ice and snow!

“Earth’s southernmost continent long ago was home to temperate, swampy rainforests teeming with life”, was claimed by scientists on Wednesday. Virgin forest soil extracted by drilling under the seafloor of Antarctica’s coast is the best proof of their claim.

90 million years ago
Marambio Base in Antarctica.De Agostini / Getty Images

A group of daredevils working aboard the research icebreaker RV Polarstern in the Amundsen Sea near the Pine Island Glacier made a startling discovery. They found out that the sediment core belonged to the Cretaceous Period and dated to about 90 million years ago when dinosaurs were the main inhabitants of pretty rainforests.  

Based on the soil content of this location, 560 mi (900 km) from the South Pole, the researchers estimated average annual temperatures of about 53-55 degrees Fahrenheit equally to 12-13° Celsius and average temperatures during the warmest summer months of about 68-77° F equally to 20-25° C.

As for the South Pole, where the average annual temperature now is around minus 40° F (minus 40° C), it is extremely hot.

“New York City can be a modern temperature analog”, was admitted by marine geologist Johann Klages of the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research in Germany, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature.  

It is hard to believe but the dark-brownish gray soil was made up of fine-grained silt and clay, which consisted of remains of fossil roots in a dense network, pollen and spores spanning 65 kinds of plants, with individual cell structures clearly visible.

Klages said that if you had gone to a forest nearby and drilled a hole, it would have probably looked pretty similar. He also mentioned that the plants included conifers, ferns and flowering plants. Even though the scientists did not find any animal remains, most likely dinosaurs, flying reptiles called pterosaurs and many insects inhabited present ice forests. What is more, Antarctica has been known for years for its Dinosaur fossils.

It turned out that the soil came from nearly 90 ft (27 m) beneath the seafloor under ocean depths of about 3,300 ft (1000 m). These results were obtained by means of a seafloor drill rig.

The Earth’s dramatic climate changes, past and current, have also been proven by the research.

According to Klages, the soil core sample dated from 93-83 million years ago. This dates from the planet’s warmest period of the past 140 million years, with sea levels about 560 ft (170 m) higher than today.

The rain forest environment annually experiences a four-month polar night when there is no sunlight to nurture plant life but that is what makes this region most appealing for the explorers including Klages. He also added that no ice sheets were present at the time though seasonal snowfall was likely.

What else is hidden in the ice forests of Antarctica and can be explored by mankind? How many expeditions are ahead of Marambio Base? Nobody knows for sure as we are at the mercy of NATURE. 

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