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Freed From a Glacier's Hold, Ancient Moss Grows Again
for National Geographic
Published May 28, 2013
In one of nature's more astonishing never-say-die stories, clumps of frozen mosses that were entombed beneath an advancing glacier more than 400 years ago have revived.
The glacier is now retreating, exposing the mosses to air and sunlight for the first time in centuries, and they are growing green and healthy once more. (Read about "The Big Thaw" in National Geographic magazine.)
The discovery was made by a team of researchers from the University of Alberta who were conducting a biodiversity study of mosses and vascular plants in an area around the retreating Teardrop Glacier in the central mountains of Canada's remote Ellesmere Island (map).
"As we walked up to the edge of the glacier, we could see patches of mosses that seemed to be coming out from underneath the ice," recalled project leader Catherine La Farge.
"They were blackened, but there were also tints of green in there as well. As I looked more closely I thought, 'Oh my gosh, what's this? Either this has somehow managed to retain a vestige of its original color or it's just started to grow again after centuries under the ice.' The thought of that just blew my mind."