Heat From Volcanoes Helped Ancient Plants And Animals Survive Past Ice Ages


CANBERRA, Australia (UPI) — During past ice ages, when glaciers blanketed much of the globe, the steam and heat from active volcanoes helped sustain life.

A new study, led by a team of researchers from Australia, analyzed the concentration of Antarctic plant and animal species in relation to volcanoes. In studying the thousands of records, compiled over many decades, the researchers were able to show that there are more species close to volcanoes and fewer farther away.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Volcanic steam can melt large ice caves under the glaciers, and it can be tens of degrees warmer in there than outside,” said Dr. Ceridwen Fraser, the lead author from the Australian National University in Canberra. “Caves and warm steam fields would have been great places for species to hang out during ice ages.”

Antarctica, the Earth’s southernmost continent, hosts as many as 16 active volcanoes, still rumbling since the last ice age some 20,000 years ago.

“Volcanoes are generally seen as these big, explosive destroyers of life, but they might be important in promoting biodiversity,” Fraser told Live Science. “This explains how life survived in Antarctica, but we think this idea of geothermal refuges could also apply elsewhere.”

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.