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Manna From Penguins
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Cool Is As Cool Does

Topic

Antarctic Plants

Student Exploration

Plants? In Antarctica?

When people hear the word Antarctica, many think of penguins. Some think polar bears, but they're wrong because those don't occur in Antarctica. Penguins are intimately connected to the image of Antarctica, even though some penguin species do occur in other areas of the Southern hemisphere. What is also connected to Antarctica is cold, cold and ice, ice and cold. In fact, the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth, −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184.0 K), occurred in Antarctica. But what about plants? Huh? No way, Antarctica is way too cold for plants. What are they, "ice plants"? Well, Antarctica isn't all ice, and there are plants; and it seems the plants wouldn't be there if not for the penguins. Watch this to find out more.

Extension Investigation

  1. Where in Antarctica does summer ice melt occur?
  2. How long is the growing season in Antarctica?
  3. How are penguins important to the growth of the moss?
  4. What do Adelie penguins (‘’ Pygoscelis adeliae’’) use to build their nests?
  5. What does the 15N in the mosses tell us about where the mosses are getting their nutrients? Explain your answer as fully as possible.
  6. How is climate change affecting the Antarctic mosses? Explain you answer fully and include all species of mosses.
  7. How do the mosses survive the Antarctic winter? Explain your answer as fully as possible.
  8. How may Antarctic mosses benefit humans?
  9. Explain the Antarctic nitrogen cycle? How does this cycle differ from the nitrogen cycle in other areas?
  10. Explain the life cycle of mosses as fully as possible.
  11. How does the gametophyte stage of mosses differ from the gametophytes of plants with more developed vascular systems?
  12. When do mosses appear in the fossil record? How does this compare to the appearance of seed plants in the fossil record?
  13. On average, how long does it take an Adelie penguin chick to hatch once an egg is laid? How is the length of their incubation and time of their hatching tailored to the Antarctic environment?

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