Science & Technology

An intact plant fossil was discovered beneath the Greenland ice sheet after the lucky discovery of an ice core excavated by the U.S. military in 1966.

A photo of the Greenland ice sheet.Credits: Joshua Brown, University of Vermont

Researchers have discovered for the first time a well-preserved fossil that is large enough to be seen with the naked eye under the Greenland ice sheet. According to UCPH researchers behind the discovery, fossils reveal millions of years of details about Greenland’s climate and plant life.

After the ice core relocation to Rødovre on the outskirts of Copenhagen in 2017, researchers at the University of Copenhagen discovered a box of unopened ice cores dating back to 1966. This is the first ice core excavated on Earth. The long-forgotten analysis of ice has been completed and presented in a new study with breakthrough results.

In a core coming deep into the ice sheet of Greenland’s Camp Century, UCPH researchers and their Belgian and American colleagues first discovered these millions of years old large fossils. The fossil is large enough to be seen without a microscope.

Branches and moss found on ice

A photo of branches and moss in the ice.Credit: University of Vermont

“We pinched ourselves on the treasure we found! Because we were able to identify whole twigs and leaves that were completely preserved millions of years later, within a core that resembled mostly compressed gravel. Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen explains:

“Thoroughly DNA Analysis is usually needed to identify which plants and animals are in the ice. But here I could see things right away. The ice was excavated in a wonderful place where there were clearly plants and branches in front of the ice-covered Greenland. “

Ice core discovered by pure luck

It was pure luck that the Greenland Camp Century ice core was recovered by UCPH researchers.

“We recently started moving our ice core inventory from the suburbs of Copenhagen in Barrup to Rødovre. During the move, our ice core curator Jorgen Peter Stephensen said that Camp Century’s ice cores. He felt the gold was trapped in the ice, and he was right! ”Says Dortedar Jensen.

Camp Century Ice Core

The ice was excavated in Greenland by the US military in 1966 and then transported to Denmark by Associate Professor Henrik Clausen in 1994 and stored in an undocumented box.

Reveal past details

Twigs and leaves may not be very audible, but reveals a rare and unique story about the vegetation of the Greenland landscape millions of years ago, when the Earth’s climate was warm and Greenland was not covered in ice. I am.

“Among the leaves, twigs and plant debris we find are moss plants and down feather moss. According to our analysis, they are common to northern forests, Canada and Alaska. They come from coniferous, birch and willow forests. These tough plants and trees are resistant to cold conditions, “explains Dorthe Dahl-Jensen.

Ice cores have also provided researchers with knowledge of Greenland’s climate change, dating back millions of years. This knowledge helps us look into the crystal ball and see the climate of the future.

Scientists find forgotten ice

A photo of a scientist who found forgotten ice on the move. Credit: Dorthe Dahl-Jensen.

“After measuring the isotopes of water in the ice, we can confirm the previous discovery that the ice sheet was intact and covered Greenland for about a million years. Prior to that, Greenland was on ice. There was a period between no ice sheets. These results show how good the ice is and how well it can withstand, including the hot periods it is today. ” Explains. Professor.

However, according to researchers, ice is strongly influenced by rising temperatures, which some climate models predict will occur over the next 100 years.

“In the worst case, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets can begin to melt and sea level can rise to 70 meters, but fortunately it can take thousands of years. To, we can still do something about it and avoid these big rises in sea level-it’s a matter of behavior, “she says.

The next step in dealing with Camp Century’s forgotten ice cores is to perform DNA analysis of both ice and sedimentary residues.

“We will see if we can also find the remains of beetles, butterflies and other insects,” concludes Professor Dargensen.

read Scientists stunned to discover plants under the mile-deep Greenland ice For more information on this study.

Reference: “Millions of years ago record of Greenland vegetation and glacier history preserved in 1.4 km of ice deposits in Camp Century” Andrew J. Christ, Paul R. Bierman, Joerg M. Schaefer, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Jørgen P. Steffensen, Lee B. Corbett, Dorothy M. Peteet, Elizabeth K. Thomas, Eric J. Steig, Tammy M. Rittenour, Jean-Louis Tison, Pierre-Henri Blard, Nicolas Perdrial, David P. Dethier, Andrea Lini, Alan J. Hidy, Marc W. Caffee, John Southon, March 15, 2021 Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences..
DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2021442118

An intact plant fossil was discovered beneath the Greenland ice sheet after the lucky discovery of an ice core excavated by the U.S. military in 1966. An intact plant fossil was discovered beneath the Greenland ice sheet after the lucky discovery of an ice core excavated by the U.S. military in 1966.

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