Scientists from Punjab University discover new plant species in Antarctica
Indian polar biologists from the Central University of Punjab have discovered a new species of plant in Antarctica. During a 2016-2017 expedition in the continent, the scientists stumbled upon a species of moss near the Indian research centre and collected the samples. Five years later, the scientists were finally able to confirm it to be the new native plant species of Antarctica.
The scientists have named the species 'Bryum Bharatiensis' as a tribute to goddess Saraswati, who is also known as 'Bharati'.
The discovery was made by Dr Felix Bast, Polar and Marine Biologist at Central Punjab University. He also heads the Botany department there. In 2017, Dr Bast, who was there as an expedition scientist, found green plants on rocks near Bharati station at Larsemann Hills, East Antarctica.
Bast took the samples and sent it to the laboratory. Later, Bast's PhD student, Wahid Ul Rahman and Kriti Gupta, head of the Botany department at DAV College, Bathinda, studied the moss to determine its taxonomy. They were also part of the expedition team.
The team has written a paper about the discovery. The Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity successfully accepted the paper for publication this week.
This moss mainly grew in areas where penguins bred in large numbers, the scientists have also found. Penguin poop has nitrogen and plants need nitrogen along with potassium, phosphorus, sunlight and water to survive.
The discovery is significant for the Indian Antarctic Mission as it is the first and only plant species that the mission discovered since 1981.