Scientists Write Eulogy to Memorialize Glacier Lost to Climate Change
By Andrea Germanos
A climate change victim in Iceland is set to be memorialized with a monument that underscores the urgent crisis.
The victim is the former Okjökull glacier in Borgarfjörður, which scientists say is the nation's first glacier lost to the climate crisis. Its plight was also the subject of the 2018 documentary Not Ok produced by Rice University anthropologists Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer.
Earther first reported on the plaque on Saturday.
The memorial monument will be installed during an Aug. 18 "un-glacier tour" and is entitled, A letter to the future. It was authored by Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason.
"Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose it status as a glacier," the text of the plaque reads. "In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path."
"This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done," it says. "Only you know if we did it."
The bottom of the plaque reads "August 2019, 415ppm CO2." Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit that threshold—for the first time ever in human history—in May.
In a press statement released Thursday, Howe spoke about the goal of the memorial.
"This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world," he said. "By marking Ok's passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth's glaciers expire. These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance."
Boyer also warned that Ok's "fate will be shared by all of Iceland's glaciers unless we act now to radically curtail greenhouse gas emissions."
Howe, in his statement, suggested the monument should be seen as a call-to-action.
"One of our Icelandic colleagues put it very wisely when he said, 'Memorials are not for the dead; they are for the living,'" Howe said. "With this memorial, we want to underscore that it is up to us, the living, to collectively respond to the rapid loss of glaciers and the ongoing impacts of climate change."
The movie, the website for the documentary says, "is not a tale of spectacular, collapsing ice. Instead, it is a little film about a small glacier on a low mountain—a mountain who has been observing humans for a long time and has a few things to say to us."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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