Environment Forum

On Antarctic safaris, remember to bring a microscope

Many people hope to come back from a wildlife safari with close-up pictures of lions or elephants – this picture below is my best attempt from a search for the largest land animals in Antarctica.

If you look hard you can see a reddish blob at the tip of the thumb — it’s Antarctica’s most aggressive land predator, an eight-legged mite known as Rhagidia.

Pete Convey, a biologist at the British Antarctic Survey (that’s his thumb), says that such tiny creatures evolved in Antarctica over tens of millions of years — they can freeze their bodies in winter in an extreme form of hibernation.

Penguins, seals and whales are the best known animals in Antarctica, but none live year-round on land, where the biggest creature is a flightless midge whose name is ”Belgica antarctica” and who’s about 0.5 cm long.

Global warming could mean problems for some of these tiny creatures if it keeps going — the Antarctic Peninsula where Pete showed us the creatures has warmed by about 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) over the past 50 years, the fastest rate in the southern hemisphere.

Sarah Palin makes few friends among U.N. climate experts

Sarah Palin in her vice-presidential debate against Joe Biden U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is making few friends among U.N. climate experts with her view that natural swings, along with human activities, may explain global warming.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Climate Panel, says that evidence is mounting that human activities are the main cause of warming. The panel reported last year that it was at least 90 percent certain that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, were heating the planet.

He predicted in a telephone interview that Palin’s influence would be limited on climate change if Republican John McCain won the presidency.

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