In Antarctica, Indian scientists identified a new plant species.
During a 2017 expedition to the ice-covered continent, polar researchers discovered a new species of moss.
Identification is time-consuming, and it took five years for the experts to determine that the species had been discovered for the first time.
The renowned international publication, Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity, has approved the peer-reviewed paper presenting this discovery.
The species has been called Bryum Bharatiensis by biologists from the Central University of Punjab. The Hindu goddess of learning, Bharati, is also the name of one of India’s Antarctic research sites.
Prof Felix Bast, a biologist who was part of the six-month expedition to the continent – the 36th by Indian scientists – discovered the dark green critter in January 2017 in Larsemann Hills, which overlooks the Southern Ocean.
This is near Bharati, one of the world’s most isolated research locations.
To survive, plants require nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, sunshine, and water. Only 1% of Antarctica is devoid of ice. Prof Bast explained, “The key challenge was how could moss thrive in this terrain of rock and ice.”
What about the sun? The experts say they’re still baffled as to how the plants managed to survive under thick snow for six months with no sunlight and temperatures as low as -76°C.
Scientists believe that the moss “dries up to a dormant stage, nearly to a seed” at this time, and then germinates anew in the summer, in September, when it receives more sunshine. The moss that has dried out absorbs water from the melting snow.
The Indian scientists spent five years decoding the plant DNA and comparing its shape to that of other plants after collecting the samples. Antarctica, the driest, coldest, and windiest continent on the planet have more than 100 types of moss.
The “alarming evidence” of climate change that the scientists encountered on the expedition was what frightened them. They discovered melting glaciers, crevasse-infested ice sheets, and glacial melt-water lakes on top of ice sheets, according to them.
“Greening is taking place in Antarctica. Because of the warming of the continent, many temperate species of plants that formerly could not live in this freezing continent can now be found everywhere “Prof. Bast stated.