National Geographic Society Newsroom

How Do Antarctic Plants Survive? Some Survive On Ancient Penguin Poo

Scientists studying moss beds in East Antarctica have found that the moss there is growing on the site of an ancient Adelie penguin colony.  The colony is believed to date back some 3,000 to 8,000 years ago.  No penguins live there now, but their droppings have been preserved, thanks to Antarctica’s constant cold temperatures.  Nitrogen...

Scientists studying moss beds in East Antarctica have found that the moss there is growing on the site of an ancient Adelie penguin colony.  The colony is believed to date back some 3,000 to 8,000 years ago.  No penguins live there now, but their droppings have been preserved, thanks to Antarctica’s constant cold temperatures.  Nitrogen in the droppings sustain the moss, which grows at a rate of 2 to 3 millimeters a year and houses insects and other small creatures that live in the inhospitable climate.

The discovery was part of a study conducted by scientists from the University of Wollongong in Australia to learn about how plants survive in icy regions where the soil is scarce in nutrients.

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Suzan Eaton
Systems specialist at NG Library.