Islands are evolutionary cradle for Antarctica marine life

A view of a glacier on Livingston Island.

The largely barren islands reaching north from Antarctica are actually the birthplace of many modern species of marine life — and perhaps will be the first places to be impacted by invading species in the wake of climate change, according to a study by researchers at Yale University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

We used to think diversity was generated on continents and spread to islands,” said Thomas Near, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the Bingham Oceanographic Curator at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and senior author of the paper appearing July 24 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. “But in Antarctica, it is the islands that hold seeds of diversity and the continent that is home to the youngest species.”