University of Cambridge > > Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars > When Antarctica was green: Fossil plants reveal Antarctica’s climate history

When Antarctica was green: Fossil plants reveal Antarctica’s climate history

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Although the polar regions are now covered in ice and snow, life was very different in Antarctica millions of years ago – Antarctica was green. Fossil plants (fossil leaves, wood, pollen, seeds and flowers) preserved in rocks from Antarctica show that the continent was once covered in lush green forests that flourished in warm humid climates, even though the continent was situated over the South Pole. The fossils represent ancient relatives of modern Southern Hemisphere forests but at times (e.g. ~90 million years ago during the Cretaceous) warmth-loving plants similar to those that grow today near the Equator survived at 70°S. The last Antarctic forests survived as dwarf tundra shrubs in the Beardmore Glacier region, only 300 miles from the South Pole, even as ice sheets spread across the continent about 12 million years ago. Antarctic plant fossils contain a rich store of palaeoclimate information about past polar environments and provide us with a window into life at high latitudes in our future warm world.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars series.

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