Indian scientists discover new plant species in Antarctica

Source: WION 

What is the News? 

A team of Indian scientists has discovered a new plant species in Antarctica named Bryum Bharatiensis. 

About Bryum Bharatiensis: 
  • Bryum bharatiensis is a species of moss. It was discovered by a team of researchers from the Central University of Punjab. 
  • Mosses are small, non-vascular flowerless plants in the taxonomic division Bryophyta. They are distributed throughout the world except in salt water and are commonly found in moist shady locations. 
  • Named after: The species has been named after Bharati, the Indian research station in Antarctica. The station itself was named after the Hindu goddess Bharati. 
How does Moss survive in Antarctica? 
  • The moss predominantly grows in areas where penguins breed in large numbers. 
  • This is because Penguin poop has nitrogen and plants need nitrogen along with potassium, phosphorus, sunlight, and water to survive. 
What about Sunlight for Mosses? 
  • In the six months of winter, when there is no sunlight and temperatures dip as low as -76°C, scientists still aren’t certain how mosses manage to survive under thick snow. 
  • They think that during the colder months, moss is likely to dry up to the point that it is almost dormant and then germinate again in September when sunlight returns. When the snow melts, the dried-up moss absorbs the water. 

Significance of this discovery for India: 

  • In the four decades since India established its first research station in Antarctica, this is the first discovery of a plant species. 
  • Initially, the first station was set up in 1984, but it was abandoned in 1990 after being buried by ice. Two stations remain operational through the year – Maitri and Bharati established in 1989 and 2012 respectively. 
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