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Exploring biological constraints on the glacial history of Antarctica

journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-26, 13:25 authored by Peter Convey, Mark I. Stevens, Dominic A. Hodgson, John L. Smellie, Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, David K. A. Barnes, Andrew Clarke, Philip J. A. Pugh, Katrin Linse, S. Craig Cary
The evolutionary and biogeographic history of the contemporary Antarctic terrestrial and marine biotas reveals many components of ancient origin. For large elements of the terrestrial biota, long-term isolation over timescales from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of years, and thus persistence through multiple glacial cycles, now appears to be the norm rather than the exception. For the marine biota there are some parallels with benthic communities also including ancient components, together with an incidence of species-level endemism indicating long-term isolation on the Antarctic continental shelf. Although it has long been known that a few ice-free terrestrial locations have existed in Antarctica for up to 10–12 million years, particularly in the Dry Valleys of Victoria Land along with certain nunataks and higher regions of large mountain ranges, these do not provide potential refugia for the majority of terrestrial biota, which occur mainly in coastal and/or low-lying locations and exhibit considerable biogeographic regionalisation within the continent. Current glacial models and reconstructions do not have the spatial resolution to detect unequivocally either the number or geographical distribution of these glacial refugia, or areas of the continental shelf that have remained periodically free from ice scouring, but do provide limits for their maximum spatial extent. Recent work on the evolution of the terrestrial biota indicates that refugia were much more widespread than has been recognised and it is now clear that terrestrial biology provides novel constraints for reconstructing the past glacial history of Antarctica, and new marine biological investigations of the Antarctic shelf are starting to do likewise.



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Quaternary Science Reviews






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ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)

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