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See Inside Scientific American Volume 307, Issue 3

Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land

Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land
by James McClintock
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012 (($26))

Before scientists began exploring Antarctica in earnest at the dawn of the 20th century, many had assumed the continent was inhospitable to life. Yet as McClintock, who has made 13 trips to the region as a marine ecologist, notes, it is teeming with such colorful creatures as orange sea butterflies, red and yellow starfish, giant marine worms and 12-inch-diameter sea spiders, not to mention their better-known neighbors: penguins, seals and whales. Through firsthand observations, he makes clear what is at stake as the climate changes: Adélie penguins may vanish by the end of the century, along with krill and seafloor organisms. Some of these species harbor compounds active against cancer, flu and other diseases. If we can shrink the hole in the ozone layer, which we appear to be doing, McClintock theorizes, we should be able to reverse greenhouse gas accumulation, too.

COMMENT AT ScientificAmerican.com/sep2012

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