Antarctic flora & fauna (was: New Zealand plants...)

Ken Kinman kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Jul 27 20:50:55 CDT 2004

John Grehan wrote:
     I'm not up to date with what is most "generally believed" about the recency of habitable areas. I would be interested to know what that is these days. The last I heard was for some surviving Nothofagus on the trans-Antarctic mountains about 3 myr.
My response:
     It seems to still be hotly contested whether all of Antarctica was pretty well set into its deep freeze by 17 million years ago, or whether there were significant refugia in various areas after that.  If the latter, these areas could have expanded during warmer periods----there was one ending about 3 million years ago and if I recall correctly, yet another significant warming ending about 2.2 million years ago.

      I think there is perhaps some truth in both viewpoints----generally a deep freeze for 17 million years, but with small localized pockets of "refugia" which expanded during thaws.  A flightless weevil was found in the Pliocene of Antarctica (not sure which part of the Pliocene).  If such weevils were there throughout the Miocene, then such pockets of refugia obviously existed.  But I think some of the opposition just argues that the weevil was perhaps reintroduced during a warm period (but I highly doubt suggestions that the weevil just blew in, given the seeds that were found with it).

      Basically, I think we will just have to wait for more drilling to discover more fossils.  Drilling in just the right places to find refugia with fossil remains may be largely a matter of luck.  For all we know, we could eventually find a significant Antarctic refugium with flies and weevils and who knows what else, perhaps even into the Pleistocene.  It wouldn't overly surprise me.
       ------- Cheers,
                     Ken Kinman

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