Mosses Survive Centuries Under Arctic Glaciers

Tough plants regrew after glacier retreated

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 28, 2013 2:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Arctic mosses that thrive in some of the world's most inhospitable locations are even tougher than scientists thought. Researchers found that the hardy mosses on Canada's Ellesmere Island managed to survive being crushed under a glacier for centuries, NPR reports. They were amazed to find green sprigs of new growth amid a tangle of moss that had been covered by ice since around 1500 and only exposed recently when the glacier retreated.

"The material actually looked quite green when we examined it underneath the microscope. And in examining it in more detail, there was actually growth coming from the material," says the lead researcher, whose study hails the "unrecognized resilience" of the mosses. The study suggests that the hardy plants may play a key role in regenerating ecosystems after glaciers have retreated, Science News notes.

Scientists have made some amazing finds as ice retreats on Ellesmere Island.
Scientists have made some amazing finds as ice retreats on Ellesmere Island.   (AP Photo/Ohio State University, Joel Barker)
This undated image provided by Ohio State University shows Ellesmere Island National Park in Canada.
This undated image provided by Ohio State University shows Ellesmere Island National Park in Canada.   (AP Photo/Ohio State University, Joel Barker)
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