» » A creature that survived 30 ice ages was discovered in Antarctica.

A creature that survived 30 ice ages was discovered in Antarctica.

 
A creature that survived 30 ice ages was discovered in Antarctica.

There are places on our planet where life seems impossible. Antarctica is one of them. But this was not always the case: 68 million years ago, the continent was covered with dense forests, along which dinosaurs and the first mammals walked. In those days, Antarctica was connected with South America, forming the last remnants of the supercontinent Gondwana, from which Africa and Australia had already separated. Only after the breakaway from South America - about 35 million years ago - the continent was enveloped in ice cover, which destroyed almost all life. Of course, Antarctica is famous for penguins and seals, but they live on the coast, eating fish and phytoplankton. But they cannot survive in the depths of the continent, about 98% of which is covered with ice. It was believed no one can. Until recently.



Who lives in Antarctica?

Beginning in about 1900 scientists gradually discovered that ice-free plots of land a few kilometers from the coast were inhabited by tiny creatures called Collembole - a subclass of small arthropods - ticks, worms, and even midges. All these creatures needed water and often inhabited small areas of lichens or moss on the northern slopes, where the summer sun melted snow and moistened the soil 24 hours a day. But over time, researchers found them in colder and drier places, moving deeper into the mainland, until they found Tullbergia, a tiny animal living under rocks in the inland mountains of Antarctica.

In fact, few have heard of collembolas. And this despite the fact that the soil in the yard where you live is probably just teeming with them. These tiny creatures are found all over the world, and several species live in rare areas of ice-free surfaces that are scattered throughout Antarctica. However, this is a very harsh place where there is little food, with the exception of microscopic fungi and rare bacteria. How the collembolans and Tullbergia ended up there and how they survived dozens of ice ages is a mystery, the answer to which remains to be found. And how do you think these tiny ancient animals managed to survive in such an aggressive and cold environment? Share your opinion with the participants of our Telegram chat, there you will find like-minded people.

A creature that survived 30 ice ages was discovered in Antarctica.


Many multi-tailed collembol look like 3-3-340.

According to Scientific American, species such as Tullbergia expand our understanding of the boundaries of biology, reinforcing the notion that even the most severe conditions on Earth can often support the complex life of animals.



How to survive the Ice Age?

A study published in the journal Pedobiologia in 2005 showed that the age of origin of some Antarctic collembolls is much greater than past ice ages. To evaluate when several species of Antarctic collembollas shared with species from Australia, New Zealand and Patagonia, scientists used DNA analysis. The results were unexpected - judging by the data obtained, the separation occurred from 10 million to 20 million years ago. Read more about what DNA analysis is, how it is made and why it is needed, read in our material.

Not surprisingly, these results left researchers confused: how did these tiny creatures survive so many ice ages? Some have suggested that animals could survive in various small isolated valleys called the McMurdo Dry Valleys, in the northern Transantarctic Mountains, but no one knows the exact answer to this question today.

A creature that survived 30 ice ages was discovered in Antarctica.


Here is a greatly enlarged shot of Tullbergia. White and bristly during life, it dries quickly and dies when exposed to air.

Tullbergia and other animals are not found in other parts of Antarctica. Their further study showed that even in the warm seasons the movement of these animals was more limited. So, some populations lived only 10 kilometers apart, but did not intersect for five million years! It turned out that this species did not travel at all. But how, then, did Tullbergia survive at least 30 ice ages without moving more than a few kilometers and not in contact with other populations? This question is all the more mysterious because most of the time these animals were trapped in a narrow zone between deadly ice and toxic salt.

If you look at the mountains of the icy continent from a helicopter, you can see a weak line running along the mountain slopes: a couple of hundred meters above the surface of the ice, the rock changes color from light below the line to dark above it. These lines show how high the ice rose during the last ice age - this is the result of subtle differences in the way minerals are oxidized when they are exposed to air. The soil of any transantarctic mountain and under it is often covered with a white crust of salt.

But this salt - due to its high nitrate content - is toxic to many living things and creates a trap for small animals such as Tullbergia, which are trying to escape from the advancing glaciers. Remaining in place, they will be buried under the ice, but climbing up the hill will lead them to poisonous salt deposits. Not the most comfortable habitat, if not cool. One way or another, if this species, previously unknown to science, has survived 30 ice ages, then they obviously should not be underestimated.

27 апрель 2020 /
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