A group of polar biologists from India stumbled upon a plant species, during an expedition to Antarctica, in 2017.
However, it was only recently, that the scientists could confirm that the plant species had been discovered for the first time.
About the new species found in Antarctica:
On the 36th expedition undertaken by Indian scientists in the icy continent, the scientists from the Central University of Punjab discovered a rare, dark green plant species. The plant species was found at the Larsemann Hills, overlooking the Southern Ocean, near one of the world’s remotest research stations, Bharati. The plant species was later recognized as mosses.
Nomenclature: how it got its name?
The novel plant species, discovered by Indian scientists in Antarctica is hailed Bryum Bharatiensis, by the scientists.
The newly found moss species is named after the Hindu goddess, Bharati, who also lends her name to India’s research station in Antarctica.
In addition, it is named so by the scientists to pay tribute to their country of origin, i.e., India.
Traversing the discovery:
After strenuous research of five long years, spent collecting, sequencing, and comparing samples of plant DNA, the Indian scientists unanimously reached a conclusion that the discovered species was indeed novel.
It is the first time, since the launch of the first research station in Antarctica, four decades ago, that India discovered a new plant species.
The breakthrough discovery featured in a peer-reviewed paper which has been accepted in the leading international journal- the ‘Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity.’
A boon or a bane?
While the tedious research being conducted is a big boon for India and Science, at large, as it opens new doors for more such studies in the region. It will also be interesting to know how these mosses survive one of the world’s toughest weather in temperatures going as low as -70 degrees.
However, the discovery is also a matter of concern as it indicates the changing topography of the icy continent, due to the effects of global climate change. “Antarctica is getting greenified. Many temperate species of plants that previously could not survive in this frozen continent are now seen everywhere because of the warming up of the continent,” said Prof Bast in a BBC report.
The scientists further noticed melting glaciers, crevasse-infested ice sheets, and glacial melt-water lakes on top of ice sheets, during their expedition, thus pointing out the grave concerns regarding the perils of climate change.