New Plant Species Discovered in Antarctica: Bryum Bharatiensis

Photo Credit Felix Bast

Photo Credit Felix Bast

Indian scientists discovered a brand new species of plant, the Bryum Bharatiensis, in none other than Antarctica, the coldest place on earth. The plant is a species of moss, a non-flowering plant that has about 12,000 species worldwide. 

 

This species of moss was discovered on India’s 36th expedition by polar biologists. Felix Bast, an Indian polar biologist, saw the plant Larsemann Hills, which overlooks the Southern Ocean. Immediately it was taken into examination and after almost 5 years of testing, they deemed it a new species of moss as of July 2021. The biologists named the species the Byrum Bharatiensis, inspired by the Hindu goddess of learning. 

 

According to antarctica.gov.au, “About 130 species have been recorded from Antarctica. This includes 100 species of mosses and 25 to 30 species of hepatics, or liverworts.” Since only 1% of Antarctica is ice-free, it is hard to believe that any species can survive, but life prevails. 

 

Scientists say they do not yet fully understand how this moss can survive under thick winter snow cover with no sunlight, and temperatures far, far below zero,” says treehugger.com. Some scientists think that the moss will dry up and go dormant until spring where it germinates again and sprouts anew. 

 

While this might seem like an amazing discovery, there is a problem with Antarctica greening.  “What I’ve noticed is that the surface of the glacier has changed. The ice is crustier. And the thing that really struck me is: I began to hear it. To me, that running water is part of the climate change story,” says marine biologist Jim McClintock. Global warming is threatening polar biodiversity and all the species that live in these intense environments.

 

As treehugger.com says, “The proliferation of mosses on the frozen continent is one more reminder that we must act fast to halt the degradation of this precious ecosystem—and other precious ecosystems around the world.”