Research Highlight

New plant species discovered in Antarctica

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.114 Published online 30 August 2021

Researchers from the Central University of Punjab have discovered a new moss species on rocks near Bharati, an Indian research station at the Larsemann Hills in eastern Antarctica1.

The discovery of the new moss species, the researchers say, is significant since such species are integral parts of the Antarctic biome, contributing to carbon cycling through the accumulation and release of organic matter and providing habitat and food for invertebrates.

The Larsemaan Hills area is dotted with offshore islands and lakes, making it an attractive place to search for new species of plants and animals. Such features lured the scientists to survey the area near the Bharati station.

On one of their trips, the researchers, led by Felix Bast, stumbled upon the new moss species. Morphological features and molecular analyses revealed that the species was distinct and diverged from other moss species that belonged to the genus Bryum.   

Since the species was found near the Bharati station, the researchers named it Bryum bharatiense. It is an unbranched plant, exhibiting dark green stems in the lower portion and brown at the upper part.  

The researchers found the moss species in a place where penguin faeces were abundant. Such faeces, they believe, possibly provide nutrients to the mosses.  

This finding of the new moss species, supported by other discoveries of plant species and recent remote-sensing surveys, indicates that global warming might be fuelling such plant growth across the Antarctica, the researchers noted.


References

1. Rehman, W. U. et al. Morphophylogenetic assessment of a new moss species Bryum bharatiense Sp. Nov. (Bryaceae) from Larsemann Hills, Eastern Antarctica. J. Asia-Pacific. Biodiversity. (2021) Doi:10.1016/j.japb.2021.07.001