Our Antarctic Getaway

New Scientist has a lovely brochure for a summer place down south – far, far south:

The cool climate of Antarctica was a refuge for animals fleeing climate change during the biggest mass extinction in Earth’s history, suggests a new fossil study. The discovery may have implications for how modern animals will adapt to global warming.

Around 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, about 90 per cent of land species were wiped out as global temperatures soared. A cat-sized distant relative of mammals, Kombuisia antarctica, seems to have survived the extinction by fleeing south to Antarctica.

Jörg Fröbisch, a geologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, and colleagues rediscovered fossils of K. antarctica dating from the end of the Permian among specimens collected from Antarctica over 30 years ago.

“Antarctica wasn’t covered in ice then, but had a cool climate, and maybe lay further from the erupting Siberian volcanoes and their beastly atmospheric effects,” says Mike Benton, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the University of Bristol, UK.

They say maybe modern animals could migrate to survive global warming – if humans hadn’t built cities and highways in the way.