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Science & Technology

Sediment cores shine light on Antarctic forests

By T.K. Randall
April 4, 2020 · Comment icon 21 comments

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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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by XenoFish 4 years ago
I think the prehistoric world would've been a sight to behold. Equal part beauty and sheer terror. 
Comment icon #13 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
As a autistic person myself, I wonder the same...
Comment icon #14 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
Happens in the womb. 
Comment icon #15 Posted by Seti42 4 years ago
Thanks, friend. It's my belief that autism isn't inflicted by a vaccination, injection, etc. It's a thing that is developmental. Actual facts seem to support my beliefs...That's why I have them. If I am wrong, I think scientists (rather than woo-salespeople) will enlighten me. PS: It's also my belief that autistic people are not something to be feared or hated. I know a few, and **** off to people thinking being autistic makes you less of a human.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Piney 4 years ago
There is no way that many physical changes in the brain can be made so late in development.  And since mine is a symptom of a chromosomal disorder it happened in the first stages of development. 
Comment icon #17 Posted by skookum 4 years ago
Crust displacement? This theory always fascinated me.  I accept this is most likely just climate change but could the poles ever receive enough sunlight to get warm?  Plus with the Earths 23 degree tilt you have the issue of large periods of time without much sunlight. I understand that even Einstein became interested in the possibility the Earths crust could move as a whole rather than just the plates.  I think one theory was if you have enough build up of ice at the poles the weight could cause a slip. Edit:  Just had to check I was not being stupid.  The Earth got its tilt around 4.5... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by Carnoferox 4 years ago
The breakup of Pangea began in the Early Jurassic c. 200-180 Ma, not at 330 Ma in the Carboniferous (not sure where that came from). At 90 Ma in the Late Cretaceous parts of Antarctica were still located farther north than the present, hence the warmer temperatures.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Essan 4 years ago
Einstein knew as much about plate tectonics and geology in general as he did about the plot of the 333rd episode of The Simpsons    Why do you think trees that shed their leaves and lie dormant for half the year evolved?     
Comment icon #20 Posted by Myles 4 years ago
You sound like the people who don't wear seat belts because they heard of a person who was killed by the seat belt.    It's all an odds thing.   I was vaccinated and have not had polio, measles, diphtheria, mumps or type B influenza.   
Comment icon #21 Posted by seetheSeeker 4 years ago
Would be so amazing to be able to explore all of history as an observer in the after-life. No time/eternity makes you wonder if you can visit �time� at any point in time.

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