For a long time, scientists assumed that microorganisms, due to their wide distribution
In the early Miocene, about 20 million years ago, atThe Antarctic continent's climate varied from temperate to subpolar. The continent was largely covered by tundra vegetation and forests. This situation changed dramatically when the continent began to cool rapidly 14 million years ago, ice sheets expanded over Antarctica, and plants and animals became extinct on a massive scale.
Researchers analyzed diatomsalgae in sediments of Antarctic lakes aged 14-15 million years, which appeared there shortly before the beginning of the great Miocene cooling. Diatoms are one of the most diverse and ecologically important groups of algae in the world and can easily petrify due to their cell wall, which is made of amorphous glass.
To their surprise, the team found indeposits of more than 200 species of diatoms. Almost every species was new to science. For this reason, the researchers further analyzed lacustrine sediments at the genus level, that is, at the level of classification above the species. This analysis showed that the species composition of the Miocene Antarctica was very different from the diatom flora characteristic of the modern continent, there are much fewer species. In contrast, the Miocene diatom flora shows similarities with the rich flora currently found in the warmer regions of the southern hemisphere such as South America, Australia and New Zealand.
Based on these results, the researchersconcluded that the Miocene diatom flora in Antarctica was largely extinct due to severe climatic changes 14 million years ago.
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