Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Disappearing glaciers enhanced biodiversity

Date:
October 4, 2010
Source:
Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet zu Kiel
Summary:
Biodiversity decreases towards the poles almost everywhere in the world, except along the South American Pacific coast. Investigating fossil clams and snails researchers show that this unusual pattern originated at the end of the last ice age, 20,000 to 100,000 years ago. The retreating glaciers created a mosaic landscape of countless islands, bays and fiords in which new species developed rapidly -- geologically speaking. The ancestors of the species survived the ice age in the warmer Chilean north.

Fossils from these bluffs at Cucao in southern Chile revealed insights into the exceptional history of biodiversity in this area.
Credit: Photo/Copyright: Sven Nielsen

Biodiversity decreases towards the poles almost everywhere in the world, except along the South American Pacific coast. Investigating fossil clams and snails Steffen Kiel and Sven Nielsen at the Christian-Albrechts-Universitδt zu Kiel (CAU) could show that this unusual pattern originated at the end of the last ice age, 20,000 to 100,000 years ago. The retreating glaciers created a mosaic landscape of countless islands, bays and fiords in which new species developed rapidly -- geologically speaking. The ancestors of the species survived the ice age in the warmer Chilean north.

The exceptional biodiversity of the southern Chilean coast is known for a long time. More than 500 species of clams and snails are known from this area, twice as many as at comparable latitudes in the northern hemisphere. The reasons for this diversity were so far speculative, report Kiel and Nielsen in the current issue of the scientific journal Geology: "Opinions include that southern Chile is a museum of diversity where species survived for millions of years in addition to new arrivals; or that Antarctic species colonized this area from the south."

Their analysis of around 35.000 fossil clams and snails, belonging to about 400 species, allowed the paleontologists to draw some more precise conclusions: "Our fossils reject both hypotheses. Biodiversity in this area always decreased toward the south in the geologic past, and we didn't find any intruders from Antarctica," explains Steffen Kiel. In addition, the researchers found that the vast majority of species and genera that lived in that area only 16 million years ago had become extinct. "This area is certainly not a museum of biodiversity," adds Kiel.

The most species-rich groups of animals in the southern Chilean fiordlands are those inhabiting rocky shores. This is exactly the habitat that was created when the glacier retreated from their marine termini. "Molecular biologic investigations on phylogenetic relationships of these species show that they are geologically very young and descended from North Chilean ancestors. This agrees well with our results," says Sven Nielsen, who has been working on Chilean fossils for many years. "Charles Darwin, who was the first to discover fossils in this area during his voyage on the 'Beagle', would have been fascinated."

This research shows that for species conservation not only single, exceptional habitats need to be protected, but that a diversity of habitats needs be conserved to maintain a healthy biodiversity.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet zu Kiel. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Kiel, S. N. Nielsen. Quaternary origin of the inverse latitudinal diversity gradient among southern Chilean mollusks. Geology, 2010; 38 (10): 955 DOI: 10.1130/G31282.1

Cite This Page:

Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet zu Kiel. "Disappearing glaciers enhanced biodiversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101004101634.htm>.
Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet zu Kiel. (2010, October 4). Disappearing glaciers enhanced biodiversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101004101634.htm
Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet zu Kiel. "Disappearing glaciers enhanced biodiversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101004101634.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) — A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) — Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins