Santiago, April 15: Scientists discovered around 300 million years ago, the coldest continent Antarctica was covered by lush green subtropical forests.
“That Antarctica was once green is a matter of consensus among scientists, but still unknown to many people,” Marcelo Leppe, a paleontologist at Chilean Antarctic National Institute.
He has spent his whole professional life in the search of origins of flora and fauna of the White Continent and found 298 million years ago forests began to appear in Antarctica during the Permian geologic period.
Fossils from the subsequent Jurassic period reveal the existence of fern and conifer forests which began 145 million years ago and lasted till 66 million years ago.
“Roughly 80 million years ago, walking in Antarctica was like walking today in a tropical or subtropical forest, something like what we could encounter in south-central Chile or in New Zealand,” Leppe said.
Scientists are amazed with how the forests survived the six-month-long Antarctic night.
Plants would have received as much as 22 hours of light per day during the Antarctic summer, “that doesn’t necessarily imply that they had the capacity to carry out photosynthesis for longer hours than now,” he said.
As seen by scientists, white Continent is turning green again with climate change, retreat of the glaciers.