Mosses living in the Antarctic are tucking into penguin poop to keep themselves going.
Professor Sharon Robinson at the University of Woolongong, Australia, has been researching the food sources of moss colonies living on the Windmill Islands in the Antarctic to better understand growth patterns and possible effects of climate change.
In order to find the source of moss growth-spurts, Robinson analysed levels of nitrogen-14 and nitrogen-15 in the moss. Nitrogen is a building block for life and a key factor in allowing the growth of simple organisms. Robinson found moss had a high concentration of nitrogen-15, which is usually found in the excrement of organisms at the top of the food chain. So in the case of the Antarctic… penguins!
Robinson revealed that although penguins had not lived on these islands for thousands of years, nitrogen in fossilized penguin droppings dissolves in rivers and lakes, formed from melted snow and ice, which is then absorbed by the moss.
Written by Jennifer Harris