Antarctica Was Oasis for Life During “Great Dying” 250 Million Years Ago

By Andrew Moseman | December 3, 2009 1:41 pm

antarctic220Today it’s tempting to think of Antarctica as an icy wasteland, hospitable for penguins and seals but not much else. However, before the continent was covered by a permanent ice sheet, it may have been a refuge from a world in chaos, according to findings published in a journal called Naturwissenschaften.

Jörg Fröbisch of Chicago’s Field Museum says that a distant relative of mammals, a cat-sized herbivore called Kombuisia antarctica survived the Permian-Triassic Extinction 250 million years ago by migrating from southern Africa to Antarctica. At the time of the end-Permian extinction, Antarctica was some distance north of its present location, warmer than it is today, and not covered with permanent glaciers [The Telegraph].

Scientists actually possessed the K. antarctica fossils for three decades before this paper was published, but didn’t bother with this question because identifying the animals wasn’t the reason for collecting the fossils. The fossil hoard had been assembled for the American Museum of Natural History as evidence of the existence of the ancient supercontinent Pangaea, in which all today’s continents were locked together in one land mass [New Scientist].

Because scientists have turned up no vertebrate fossils in Antarctica from before the “Great Dying” 250 million years ago, Fröbisch’s team is confident that K. antarctica migrated there across Pangaea in response to the changing world, rather than having lived there all along. That jibes with what scientists are seeing now—species on the move in response to the changing climate.

Related Content:
80beats: Should Humans Relocate Animals Threatened by Global Warming?
80beats: Plants “Climb” Mountains to Escape Global Warming
80beats: In the Permian Period, Erupting Super-Volcanoes May Have Killed Half the Planet
80beats: Radar Reveals Antarctica’s Secret Landscape, Hidden Beneath Miles of Ice
DISCOVER: The Day Everything Died, an account of the scientific fight over what really happened 250 million years ago.

Image: Flickr / Christian Revival Network

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • marty

    Yay! finally – an article that “man made” climate change is bogus. Species have been relcoating due to “climate change” long before people. Hopefully when combined with Climategate, Discover editors wills tart being more balanced in thier article selections. Could it be that the Dark Ages of science is comming to an end?

  • Nick Pruett

    Sounds like you are still stuck in the dark ages of science. Man is accelerating the rate of climate change, not the cause of it.

  • falalalala lalalala

    Yeah Marty, don’t be a Dodo.

  • Mike

    Marty, I keep coming across people like you. I was recently in rural Texas and I got constant ear loads of anti global warming stuff. Anyway, there is deep belief that it’s all fabricated. The deep ignorance here is that even if it is, even if we have had no affect on it, it’s still the burning of dirty, toxic materials for energy and what gets dumped out is not good for anything. Big Bend National Park has many polluted hazy days with poor visibility, same with Guadalupe National Park.

    It’s like you people celebrate and encourage more coal plants and pollution. It’s masculine to support oil and coal in the right wing community. It’s “liberal” and sissy to drive a Prius, or go solar. I know some guys in Durango, CO who used to think that way until they saw first hand what the coal plant in NW NM (Navajo Res) does to the San Juans. The Durango valley can be socked in with a yellow haze, views south muddied up with a layer of gunk from the plant. All these Texans I know who own cabins on Grassy mountain in Bayfield, CO (where I used to live) now have an almost constant yellowish smoggy line on the horizon looking south towards NM. There are mercury warnings if you eat to0 many fish from the region – it’s from the coal plant. Another plant is on the way….The Navajos don’t want people climbing on their sacred Ship Rock, but they don’t mind covering it with a cloud of haze. The right and it’s sheep don’t care…they sit around worrying about whether or not two gay dudes can get married in San Francisco.

    And for what exactly? Lights for more what? More 24 hour Wal-Marts with acres of black asphalt and artifical lights to drown out our night sky? More distribution centers to ship around plastic stuff from China that ends up in a highlighted bin on sale? More 7-11’s selling junk foods and corn syrup drinks to our exploding obese pollulation? The right wing has yet to convince me how all that helps our species and the planet.

  • Ron Bennett

    Wait until the Russians reach Lake Vostok a 250 km long by 50 km wide lake 4 kilometers beneath the surface of Antarctica. There is no telling what they might find down there.

  • kook

    I hearrd on Art Bell that the U.S. lost a nuclear powered auger that drilled into Lake Vostok. Its contaminated the lake, and poisoned the scientists there to drill.

  • Henry Wysmulek

    More evidence of these losers manipulating the data to fit their pet theories instead of looking at what the evidence is actually saying!

    Where has real science and where have the real scientists’s gone?

  • Charles K

    So according to this article all continents will eventualy balance at the poles due to “velocitic” inertia.

    Is it me or is the first commentator(marty) a conman!? What the hell would they care if climate change is true or false? That person seems kind of screwy. I could wager that person probably works with one of those companies(corporate or industrial) that have gimmics that rip-off the consumers and make the economy dependant on stupidity!! Those kind of people are like a disease for society!….. .. . . .well, maybe the person’s just a kid.

  • marty

    Charles, just because I work for BP doesn’t mean I don’t think for myself. I am not a kid- I just graduated college (whose annual tuition is more than you make in a year). I drive a big SUV because I can, and because I like looking down on plebes like you when I commute.

  • marty


    let’s see…E=MC2. ok…so global warming theorists say we are absorbing more E from the Sun. hmmm…since the amss of the earth ahsnt changed (to my knowledge, we have not collided with anything, soo…what? is it magic? go back and read a grade 10 physics book.

    i see we have a list of the same people that believe if the ice melts the ocean levels will rise. put an ice cube in a full glass of water. if the water spills out of the glass after the cube metls, i’ll come over to your house and eat the glass.

  • Bill

    Marty and all – Maybe the cause of Global warming is man made – and maybe not. Nontheless all the waste from our power plants and such is not good. Trees in the Smokies are dying from pollutents from power plants in Tennessee. LA was in a constant smog (still is to some extent) until recent efforts to clean emissions from automobiles. Check out views of some of China’s cities and see what the atmosphere there is. Look at India’s garbage filled rivers. Global warming may be a natural thing – but all this pollution is not. We need to quit calling each other names and all begin to work on solutions. We might be amazed at what we could accomplish at small cost if we could all just work together on very visible problems. In my 32 years of computer repair I always fixed the most obvious problems first. Sometimes – often in fact – that fixed the not so obvious problems too.

  • Eliza Strickland


    The problem with global warming isn’t that sea ice will melt — as you note, that would have no effect on sea levels. The problem is that glaciers and ice sheets on land will melt and the runoff will find its way to the ocean, causing a sea level rise.

  • Chris

    Marty……Marty….Marty. You need to understand the difference between “water born” ice that is melting……and “land born ice” that is melting. Ice sheet melting does NOT cause the ocean to rise (directly). So your “ice cube” scenario would hold true for “ice sheets” that are melting……..they do NOT cuase the ocean to rise.

    However……when ice melts that is on land…… quite a different story. That is why the melting that is occuring on Greenland is so important. Also…..even though ice sheets don’t DIRECTLY cause the ocean to rise, the ice sheets do provide a “buffer” and act like a refrigerator door for land based ice. When the ice sheet melts… allows the LAND BORN ice to melt that much faster.


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