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Polar Research: May 2013


When Catherine La Farge threads her way through the recently exposed terrain left behind by retreating glaciers, she looks at the ancient plant remains a lot closer than most. Now, her careful scrutiny has revealed a startling reawakening of long-dormant plants known as bryophytes.

The Antarctic continental ice cap came into existence during the Oligocene epoch, some 33.6 million years ago, according to data from an international expedition led by the Andalusian Institute of Earth Sciences (IACT)--a Spanish National Research Council-University of Granada joint centre. These findings, based on information contained in ice sediments from different depths, have recently been published in the journal Science.

The temperature in the permafrost on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic is nearly as cold as that of the surface of Mars. So the recent discovery by a McGill University led team of scientists of a bacterium that is able to thrive at -15oC, the coldest temperature ever reported for bacterial growth, is exciting.