Saturday, July 07, 2007

Greenland's DNA reveals green past

Erik the Red, who settled in Greenland 1000 years ago, named it to lure more settlers, although a small area not covered by ice would then have been very green.

While an admirable marketing tactic, Erick was half a million years (give or take a thousand), behind the times.

clipped from

THE oldest DNA found on earth has been collected from under a kilometre of ice in Greenland, revealing that the frozen island really was once green.

Half a million years ago Greenland was covered by lush forests filled with butterflies, moths and the ancestors of beetles, flies and spiders.

The discovery of ancient DNA from a warm period half a million years ago suggests that ice on top of the ancient forest did not melt as believed during the last warm period, 116,000 to 130,000 years ago, when temperatures were 5 degrees higher than today. If it had, the remains of the ancient trees and insects would have been replaced by new flora and fauna.

"If our data is correct, this means that the southern Greenland ice cap is more stable than previously thought," said Professor Willerslev, whose team's findings are published today in the
journal Science.

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