About My Health Careers Internship MedBlogs Contact us

Fossils That Uncover Origins of Antarctic Ecosystem Identified

by Sheela Philomena on April 25, 2013 at 2:55 PM
Font : A-A+

 Fossils That Uncover Origins of Antarctic Ecosystem Identified

Organic fossil remains that uncover origins of Antarctic ecosystems has been identified by scientists.

The study, published this month in the journal Science, used the organic fossil remains of a type of single-celled marine plankton called dinoflagellates to identify when Antarctic plankton communities shifted to the present day makeup.


Before the ice sheets formed, Antarctica was sub-tropical and ice-free, and the seas were inhabited by a diverse array of dinoflagellates characteristic of relatively warm climates.

However, these results show that the emergence of the ice cap caused a step-change in the types of dinoflagellates living around Antarctica to predatory species that feed on photosynthetic algae such as diatoms. This indicates more productive conditions likely characterised by intense phytoplankton blooms which impacted the whole food chain, including larger organisms such as whales and penguins.

"This study demonstrates that the initial large-scale glaciation of Antarctica had profound effects on plankton communities in the waters surrounding the continent," says Dr Steven Bohaty, co-author and Postdoctoral Researcher in Palaeoceanography at the University of Southampton.

"This shift represents a major step towards development of the modern ecosystem, in which plankton blooms occur seasonally - typically occurring in short bursts in the spring or early summer when the ring of winter sea ice around Antarctica melts."

These seasonal blooms are a key food source for the entire food chain and therefore have an impact on larger organisms, as lead author Dr Sander Houben of Utrecht University explains: "Larger sea animals probably adapted their diet because the algal growth season became shorter and more intense. We therefore believe that it is no coincidence that the evolution of modern baleen whales approximately corresponds with the emergence of the ice sheets."

The study shows that, by comparing the fossil record with reconstructions of palaeoclimatic conditions, scientists can identify critical points in the geological past when environmental and biological changes were linked.

"These results provide evidence that the long-term evolution of Antarctic plankton communities was significantly impacted changes in climate on relatively short geological timescales," adds Dr Bohaty, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS).

The team studied fossilised plankton and sediment characteristics of cores collected from the seafloor along the Antarctic margin south of Australia in 2010 as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). This is the first time a long scientific drillcore has been collected from this region of the Antarctic margin.

This discovery was made by an international team led by Utrecht University. Cruise participation and research funding for Dr Bohaty was provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Source: ANI

News A-Z
News Category
What's New on Medindia
Memory Loss - Can it be Recovered?
International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021 - Fighting for Rights in the Post-COVID Era
Effect of Blood Group Type on COVID-19 Risk and Severity
View all

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Recommended Reading
Health Effects of Global Warming
Greenhouse effect causes excessive heat to build up in the earth's atmosphere causing global ......
Age Matters to Antarctic Clams: Study
Age matters when it comes to adapting to the effects of climate change, according to a new study of ...
In Antarctica New Technology Used to Record Whale Songs
Up to 26,545 blue whale songs in the Antarctic were captured by scientists in a study. They used - ....
Russian Scientists Find Bacterial Life Under Antarctic Lake
From a buried Antarctic lake, Russian scientists claim to have discovered a new type of bacterial .....

Disclaimer - All information and content on this site are for information and educational purposes only. The information should not be used for either diagnosis or treatment or both for any health related problem or disease. Always seek the advice of a qualified physician for medical diagnosis and treatment. Full Disclaimer

© All Rights Reserved 1997 - 2021

This site uses cookies to deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use