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Evidence for a lacustrine faunal refuge in the Larsemann Hills, East Antarctica, during the Last Glacial Maximum

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Abstract Aim 

There is no previous direct evidence for the occurrence of lacustrine refuges for invertebrate fauna in Antarctica spanning the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). In the absence of verified LGM lacustrine refuges many species are believed to result from Holocene dispersal from sub-Antarctic islands and continents further north. If freshwater lake environments were present throughout the LGM, extant freshwater species may have been associated with Antarctica prior to this glacial period. This study looked at faunal microfossils in a sediment core from an Antarctic freshwater lake. This lake is unusual in that, unlike most Antarctic lakes, the sediment record extends to c. 130,000 yrbp, i.e. prior to the LGM. Location 

Lake Reid, Larsemann Hills, East Antarctica (76°23′ E; 69°23′ S). Methods 

Palaeofaunal communities in Lake Reid were identified through examination of faunal microfossils in a sediment core that extended to c. 130,000 yrbp. Results 

Ephippia and mandibles from the cladoceran Daphniopsis studeri and loricae of the rotifer Notholca sp. were found at all depths in the sediment, indicating that these two species have been present in the lake for up to 130,000 years. Copepod mandibles were also present in the older section of the core, yet were absent from the most recent sediments, indicating extinction of this species from Lake Reid during the LGM. Main conclusion 

The presence of D. studeri and Notholca sp. microfossils throughout the entire Lake Reid core is the first direct evidence of a glacial lacustrine refugium for invertebrate animals in Antarctica, and indicates the presence of a relict fauna on the Antarctic continent.

Keywords: Daphniopsis studeri; Notholca sp; dispersal; environmental change; faunal refuge; freshwater zooplankton; interglacial; lake sediments; tardigrade

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, Cambridge, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2006


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