Diatoms were found preserved in a Peruvian glacier. (Credit: Bruce Brinson / Rice University)
The talents of Rice University chemists, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln geoscientist and an Ohio State University climatologist have converged to uncover a unique find: diatoms in a Peruvian mountaintop glacier ice cores preserved for over 1,000 years.
According to a recent press release from Rice University, the ice samples were originally taken as part of a quest to search for the many-sided hollow carbon structures known as fullerenes in ancient ice. Instead, diatoms were uncovered. Although diatoms had been found by scientists before in Antarctic and Arctic ice, finding them in equatorial glaciers was novel research.
The researchers view the diatom find as a chance to peer into a unique microbial climate of a thousand years ago. Although many diatoms are carried on the wind and are found globally, the rare diatoms in this study were found to be unique local species. They also suggest that modern freshwater lakes in the area have been there since ancient times.
The researchers noted that samples of this type are rapidly disappearing as global warming continues to melt glaciers all over the Earth.
Top image: Diatoms were found preserved in a Peruvian glacier. (Credit: Bruce Brinson / Rice University)