Species Attached to Clothes Invade Antarctica
March 9, 2012
Crazy story about the last continent:
For the study, ecologist Steven Chown at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and colleagues vacuumed the clothes, footwear, bags, and gear of approximately 2 percent of people who visited during the Antarctic summer from late 2007 to early 2008. That amounted to 853 scientists, tourists, and accompanying support workers and ships’ crew members…
“Endless hours were spent vacuum-cleaning clothes and gear. … If one is doing so on a ship underway on a rough ocean, it can take a strong stomach,” Chown recalled.
The results revealed more than 2,600 seeds and other detachable plant structures, or propagules, had hitched a ride to Antarctica on these visitors.
There are no trees or shrubs, and only two species of flowering plants, Antarctic hair grass (Deschampsia antarctica) and Antarctic pearlwort (Colobanthus quitensis) are found, occurring on the South Orkney Islands, the South Shetland Islands and along the western Antarctic Peninsula. The vegetation is predominantly made up of lower plant groups (mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi) which are specially adapted to surviving in extreme environments, in particular, tolerating low temperatures and dehydration.
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