BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee made some exciting fossil discoveries trapped under the Antarctic ice. Some 260-million-year old trees prove a tundra once grew on the continent, long before the first dinosaurs appeared.
Fossils of trees hidden under the ice
During the Antarctic summer, researchers explored the Transantarctic Mountains and the McIntyre Promontory and looked for fossils of living beings that once populated the now frozen continent. They have known of the existence of the fossils for over a century, and now they wanted to find out more about the vegetation that was once spread all over Antarctica.
Before this expedition, one professor from the University of Wisconsin studied the ice layers which formed on the continent during the Permian period, as they contained information on how the Antarctic climate had changed. These layers contained both fossilized trees, as well as rocks. By looking at the composition of the rocks, they could place them and the fossils in the geological period they belonged to.
The extinction was probably caused by greenhouse gas emissions
When the Permian period ended, Earth underwent a massive extinction event. This happened 250 million years ago, and around 90 percent of all species existent on the planet disappeared. Among these species, there were the Antarctic forests as well. However, this discovery would reveal more about life before the extinction.
The observations made so far revealed that the fossils belonged to a tough species. Researchers will keep exploring, hoping they would discover what triggered their extinction. However, they believe it was the result of sudden emission of more greenhouse gases than usual. Most probably, the real culprits were some volcanic eruptions which took place in Siberia.
Before the Permian period ended, Antarctica was a lot warmer and humid. Apart from the trees whose fossils have been found, the continent must have also hosted species like ferns, mosses, and other plants which now are extinct.
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