Antarctica was once very different. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 J. McKay / Alfred Wegener Institute
It might be a freezing wasteland today, but in the past Antarctica was covered in lush swamps and forests.
Scientists working on the research icebreaker RV Polarstern near the continent's Pine Island Glacier recently obtained sediment cores dating back 90 million years to a time when dinosaurs roamed the land and pterosaurs dominated the skies.
It was also a time when Antarctica saw average temperatures of up to 25 degrees Celsius.
In place of ice and snow, the southernmost continent would have been covered in dense, fertile forests and swamps and was home to a vast array of dinosaurs and other reptiles.
Collected from deep beneath the seafloor, the sediment cores retrieved by the research team contained fine-grained silt and clay as well as the fossil remains of tree roots, pollen and spores.
"If you would go to a forest near you and drill a hole, it would probably look pretty similar," said study lead author and marine geologist Johann Klages.
The findings help to highlight the extent to which Earth's climate has changed over the last few million years and emphasizes that modern global warming is by no means a unique phenomenon.
The sediment samples date back to what is thought to be the warmest period in the last 140 million years during which sea levels were up to 170 meters higher than they are today.
If these conditions were to occur now, most of the world's coastal cities would be totally submerged.
Source: Reuters | Comments (21)
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