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May 28 2013

Mosses frozen in time come back to life


Being run over by a massive glacier is not a death sentence for some hardy Arctic plants. After hundreds of years buried under ice, mosses can regrow, biologists report May 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The revived plants come from Canada’s Ellesmere Island, where the Teardrop Glacier has retreated since the end of a cold period in 1550 to 1850 known as the Little Ice Age. On recently exposed ground, Catherine La Farge of the University of Alberta in Edmonton and colleagues found clumps of mosses that looked dead. But among the brown tangles, the team noticed a few green sprigs.

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