Volcanoes helped species survive ice ages

Posted by ap507 at Mar 11, 2014 10:22 AM |
Professor John Smellie involved in new discovery
Volcanoes helped species survive ice ages

View of scientists working on volcanic rocks at the base of Mt Erebus (summit elevation 4 km), seen smoking gently in the background. Erebus is a very large active volcano with a permanent lava lake in its summit crater. Photo by Tim Burton Photography.

An international team of researchers, including Professor John Smellie, a volcanologist in the Department of Geology, has found exciting new evidence that the steam and heat from volcanoes and heated rocks allowed many species of plants and animals to survive past ice ages, helping scientists understand how species respond to climate change.

The research could solve a long-running mystery about how some species survived and continued to evolve through past ice ages in parts of the planet covered by glaciers.

The strong implication of the study is that volcanoes in Antarctica have probably played a hitherto-unsuspected important role in preserving and enhancing biodiversity across multiple glaciations in Earth’s polar regions.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

Share this page: