In the latest feat for India, a group of botanists from Bathinda University has located a new plant species thriving in the eastern region of Antarctica near India's Bharati station.
The scientific name for the moss, Bryum bharatiensis has been named after India. The coldest continent on Earth, Antarctica has extreme weather conditions, scarce moisture and sunlight, and poor soil quality. Hence, the survival of this plant in such scant life-supporting conditions is evidence that it is highly adaptable.
Dakshin Gangotri, the foremost station on the continent, provides essential supplies to Indian researchers visiting Antarctica. The Ministry of Earth Sciences sends a research team of botanists, meteorologists, geologists, seismologists, and others for scientific expeditions, reported The Indian Express.
It was during India's 36th expedition to Antarctica in 2016-2017, that samples of the new plant species had been collected and the results after studying the samples were published in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity.
"The sampling was done in January, that is during the summer season in Antarctica. The 1.5 to 3 cm-long moss was seen growing in patches at several sites near the Bharati station. The spores of this moss remain dormant and survive severe winters," said Felix Bast, head of the Department of Botany, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda (CUPB).
The group of researchers included Kirti Gupta, head of the Department of Botany at DAV College, Bathinda, and Wahid Ul Rahman, a fourth-year PhD student at CUPB, who had used morphology techniques combined with DNA sequencing tools to determine the new species.
Global Warming Paves Way For New Species
This discovery has been significant in highlighting the impact of global warming on the creation of favorable weather conditions for plant growth in the otherwise frigid Antarctica.
"Slowly, Antarctica is turning green and temperate plants are being spotted here, which would otherwise not survive — an evidence of climate change," said Bast, reported The Indian Express.