Ice age wiped out plant diversity?

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 04:50 hrs

Sydney, Feb 13 (IANS) Ice ages wiped out rich plant diversity in Australia, proving that extinction, instead of evolution, influences bio-diversity, says a new research.

Scientists from the Universities of Melbourne and Tasmania has shown that plant diversity in South East Australia was as rich as some of the most diverse places in the world, and that most of these species went extinct during the ice ages, probably about one million years ago.

Kale Sniderman of Melbourne's School of Earth Sciences said the findings, based on a comparison of Southern Australia and South Africa, show extinction is just as important to diversity of organisms as evolution, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

"Traditionally scientists believed some places have more species than others because species evolved more rapidly in these places. We have overthrown this theory, which emphasizes evolution, by showing that extinction may be more important," he said, according to a Melbourne statement.

"South-western Australia has a huge diversity of tough-leaved shrubs and trees such as eucalypts, Banksias, Grevilleas and Acacias, making it one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth," Sniderman said.

"The southern tip of South Africa is even richer, with astonishing numbers of similar kinds of plants such as proteas and ericas," added Sniderman.

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