Remains of dinosaurs and ancient forest discovered in Antarctica
April 12, 2020 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Fossilised remains of 90-million-year-old rainforest discovered under Antarctic ice. Interesting article about the discovery of a forest only 500 miles from the South Pole. How did a forest exist in a continent that is dark 6 months of the year ? Story contains interesting map of the original Antarctic supercontinent when it was attached to India and Australia.

Fossilised remains of 90-million-year-old rainforest discovered under Antarctic ice. The earth was so warm 90 million years ago that there were forests and dinosaurs in the Antarctic. Today the only mammal that lives in the Antarctic is the seal, disregarding scientific bases and the USA base station right on the South Pole.
When the continent thaws out it will be ripe for oil production.
posted by Narrative_Historian (12 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
The presentation seems a bit sensational. Warm polar climate conditions isn't really news. They've been finding fossils in the Artic since at least the 80s that've said the same thing.

Edit - not that this isn't cool but even as a regular person with an interest in fossils, it doesn't feel like it's presented by the Independent in very honest/informed way.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:05 PM on April 12 [3 favorites]


This is surprising to the few people who still insist that plate tectonics isn't actually a thing. It's still good information to have, of course. It's always good to know more about what species existed during what times in the Earth's past, especially in this time of rapid change.

While there is no (known) direct analog in geologic record, knowing how the plants and animals of the past handled changes in climate gives us a better idea of what we have in store for ourselves. At this point, not much better given how much study has gone into the subject, but still, better than without.
posted by wierdo at 8:11 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


>When the continent thaws out it will be ripe for oil production.

wat
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:23 PM on April 12 [5 favorites]


The thing that blows my mind when I think about tropical rainforests extending to the poles during past thermal maxima (my personal favorite polar rainforest was on Ellesmere Island ) is that they had months of continuous darkness!!! And were still a biodiverse, dense rainforest that looked and seems to have functioned in the same way that tropical ecosystems do today. And that's just ... mindblowing! So much of what makes a rainforest function comes down to nutrient density - not in the soil, necessarily, but captured in plants and invertebrate and vertebrate biomass - and it's able to do that during periods of complete darkness! The trees, the epiphytes, the lianas, the bromeliads - it all happens. Of course, even in an equatorial rainforest not all that sunlight makes it through the canopy, but it's there and nourishing leaves and so on. As someone who spends so much of her life in rainforests, I feel like I know what to expect, at least in a general sense. But this... I want to go back in time and spend a few years figuring out what that sort of annual cycle does to the animal communities that were flourishing and diversifying there.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:44 PM on April 12 [11 favorites]


Time to re-read JG Ballard's The Drowned World.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:03 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


Antarctica wasn't always Antarctica!

Geologic timeframes laugh at your human understanding.

Paleontology is the best science for providing perspective on our pitifully short human experiences, as individuals. No individuals get preserved. Life is older than any of us can truely know.

EDIT: OK, maybe astrophysics...
posted by Windopaene at 9:45 PM on April 12 [5 favorites]


Story contains interesting map of the original Antarctic supercontinent when it was attached to India and Australia.

Is it just me who can't find the promised map, or is it buried under a display ad somewhere?

Here's a little GIF I found to tide me over.
posted by fairmettle at 10:38 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]


I have seen the map -- Antarctica used to be farther north in what is now the Indian Ocean, up off the east coast of proto-Africa. And earlier yet they and India were attached and called Gondwana land. India went north and ran into Asia -- hence the Himilayas. Antarctica spun down to the south.
posted by y2karl at 11:10 PM on April 12 [3 favorites]


I over-simplified: Gondwanaland.
posted by y2karl at 11:22 PM on April 12


Dispersal of Gondwanaland.
posted by y2karl at 11:25 PM on April 12


this will set back creationists data by at least 1000 years.
posted by clavdivs at 11:37 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]


the buried lede being their deduction of higher CO2 ppm concentration, given the temperatures necessary for the vegetation that their findings imply. This means the ice cover we’re losing at unprecedented rates had that much more of a potent cooling effect (direct and via albedo), and current global heating models/projections may need to be calibrated (to hotter, faster) accordingly...
posted by progosk at 12:39 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


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