Ancient Diatoms Found in Glacial Ice in Peru: First Such Discovery in Tropical Glaciers; “Irreplaceable Snapshots in Archeological Time and Space,” Author States

The remains of tiny creatures found deep inside a mountaintop glacier in Peru are clues to the local landscape more than a millennium ago, according to a new study by scientists at Rice University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Ohio State University. The unexpected discovery of diatoms, a type of algae, in ice cores pulled from the Quelccaya Summit Dome Glacier demonstrate that freshwater lakes or wetlands that currently exist at high elevations on or near the mountain were also there in earlier times. The abundant organisms would likely have been transported in air currents to the glacier, where they were deposited on its surface, dead or alive, and ultimately became frozen within the glacial ice and persisted there for hundreds of years. The study is the first to show the presence of diatoms in glacial ice from tropical regions. The diatoms offer useful information about conditions in and around the Andes when they were deposited on the ice. The paper is the result of a unique collaboration among Rice chemists Dr. Ed Billups and Dr. Bruce Brinson, Ohio State climatologist Dr. Lonnie Thompson and lead author Dr. Sherilyn Fritz, a geoscientist at the University of Nebraska. The article was published in the May 2015 issue of Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, a journal published by the University of Colorado-Boulder. Of the four scientists, Dr. Billups, Dr. Brinson and even Dr. Thompson had something in common with the focus of their study: They were all, figuratively, fish out of water. "I was the lucky latecomer to the group," said Dr. Fritz, who studies diatoms from cores she and her students drill from South American lakebeds. "It's only because Bruce was so observant and curious and did such a nice job on documenting the diatoms that it happened at all." Over a long and storied career, Dr.
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