Ancient algae found trapped deep in glacier's ice


Diatoms found in an ice core from the Quelccaya Summit Dome Glacier. Scientists suspect the freshwater diatoms, a type of algae, were blown there from nearby high-elevation ponds as far back as the sixth century.
BRUCE BRINSON/RICE UNIVERSITY

Scientists have found the remains of tiny creatures dating from the sixth century deep inside a glacier in Peru.

The find gives new insights into the environment of the time.

The diatoms diatoms, a type of algae, were found in ice cores pulled from the Quelccaya Summit Dome Glacier by researchers from Rice University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Ohio State University.

They show that today's freshwater lakes and wetlands in the region have existed for more than 1,000 years at least.

The algae was probably blown onto the glacier, becoming frozen within the glacial ice.

Ohio State climatologist Lonnie Thompson said the first record of diatoms in tropical glaciers "points to the potential of these archives for investigating how not just diatoms but other life forms such as ancient microbes survived, thrived and evolved under extreme conditions and under very different climatic regimes".

The ice core filtrates studied water from three layers corresponding to the years 1161 to 1176, 807 to 837 and 460 to 511 A.D.

The scientists said the diatoms' excellent condition suggested they hadn't traveled far.

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