Were there lots of wildflower bulbs in Greenland?

Joe Shaw jshaw@opuntiads.com
Sat, 07 Jul 2007 11:13:20 PDT
Hi Gang,

Dr. Eske Willerslev published an article a few years ago describing how he 
pulled ancient DNA from permafrost and analyzed it.  He didn't get huge 
amounts of DNA, but he did get mitochondrial DNA and was able to infer if 
the DNA came from shrubs, trees, forbs, or mosses.  By studying what he 
found, and measuring the abundance, he was able to infer changes in the 
plant communities of a region of Siberia (Berengia), for up to 400,000 years 
in the past.  He found relatives of roses, certain grasses, willow trees, 
sedges, blueberry relatives, and conifers.  He proposed how grasslands, 
meadows, and forests might have given way to each other over time.

Now Dr. Willserslev has a new paper in Science magazine, and he's been busy 
analyzing DNA from Greenland ice cores and seems to have recovered DNA up to 
800,000 years old.  Dating such old samples is tricky, and perhaps dates 
will be revised.  But the really interesting thing is that the new study 
suggests that southern Greenland had thriving forests and meadows at one 
time with various butterflies and other insects.

I don't know what bulbs are associated with boreal forests, but I suspect 
they were present in ancient Greenland in a complex ecosystem.  It is 
difficult to know what the temperature extremes were, but perhaps southern, 
coastal Greenland was had USDA zone 5-like minimum temperatures or was a bit 
warmer.  Perhaps the bulbs that (possibly) grew there are the types of 
plants that can grow in Scotland, Siberia, or the Scandinavian countries.

LINK 1:  Eureka Alert, July 5, 2007, Fossil DNA

LINK 2:  Science Daily, July 5, 2007

LINK 3:  Dr. Willerslev article from 2003 (free, but tedious registration 


Conroe TX
Crinum x 'Bradley" is blooming this month, tall and fragrant 

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