A recent expedition to a barren island off Antarctica has yielded a wealth of fossils. Some of the 11 marine invertebrate species found were previously known to exist only at mid-latitudes, while others had not been known to exist anywhere. The discoveries on Seymour Island suggest that the Antarctic region acted as a “holding tank” for a wide variety of animals that originated and evolved for millions of years in the region and then dispersed northward, according to researchers on the expedition.
“Scientists have previously believed that most evolution took place in the tropics or in low or mid-latitudes,” said expedition leader William J. Zinsmeister, formerly of Ohio State University and now of Purdue University. “The polar regions have been looked upon as unimportant. Now, however, because of recent discoveries in the polar regions, our ideas about evolution will have to be modified. It's apparent that evolution has, indeed, been taking place in the polar regions and that these regions may have been a source for many groups of animals and plants,” he said.