Antarctica is an icy place today, but the ice has expanded even further during past ice ages. Biologists have long wondered how and where life on land has survived on the icy continent over the centuries.

Ever since the first expeditions to Antarctica, the continued existence of life in this inhospitable environment has remained a mystery. Until now.

We collected data to test our theory of how life survived previous ice ages. We argue that life forms, including invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants, have subsisted by retreating to numerous ice-free areas called nunataks that were not buried by advancing glaciers.

Then, as Antarctica gradually warmed again, life spread from these nunatak refuges to repopulate larger ice-free areas. Our approach explains the uneven distribution of terrestrial life in Antarctica and identifies new research priorities to further test our theory.

The Coming Ice Age

Ice Age the Movie (Clips)

With the Ice Age approaching, an unlikely trio of prehistoric creatures – Manny the woolly mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger, and Sid the giant sloth – find an orphaned human child and decide to return it.

For many, the term “Ice Age” conjures up memories of the animated adventures of Manny, Sid, and Diego (and don’t forget Scrat the squirrel rat!) as they attempted to escape the advancing ice.

There may be some truth to this story. The idea of ​​a mammoth, sloth, saber-toothed tiger (and pesky humans) migrating south to warmer climes is becoming more popular in the northern hemisphere. And research published this month suggests early humans survived the last ice age in the ice-free havens of southern Europe.


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