Ancient plants revive after being trapped in ice for 400 years

Back from the dead?

Scientists visiting Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic discovered something remarkable and fascinating .

Led by Catherine LaFarge, a geologist from the University of Alberta in Edmonton (Canada), they were exploring an area called the Sverdrup Pass, which until just recently had been covered by ice. The Teardrop Glacier had spread all across Ellesmere Island during the Little Ice Age, a global cold spell that affected weather and climate conditions in the Northern Hemisphere between 1550 and 1850.

While trudging across newly exposed ground, the scientists found clumps of moss that were mostly browned or blackened. But in among this dead plant life were some spots of green, indicating that a process of regeneration and regrowth had started to occur.

This was remarkable, because LaFarge and the other scientists knew they were not looking at moss that had grown recently. What they’d discovered had originally lived and died several hundred years ago, and it had been trapped beneath the ice for several centuries. Incredibly, moss that had been buried and frozen solid beneath the Teardrop Glacier had begun to regenerate, as if it hadn’t been affected by its centuries-long entombment at all.

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