If Sherlock Holmes was part scientist, part detective, he may want to trade in his capelike coat for a parka to study the mystery of fuzzy, green glacier ‘mice.’ He ‘d be sure not to let their name toss him off the path. These glacial inhabitants aren’t actually mice– or any animal at all– they’re roundish balls of moss about the size of a tennis ball. The perplexing plants hang out on the surface of particular glaciers in Alaska, Iceland, Svalbard and South America (yes, there are glaciers in South America– about 80 percent of South America’s glaciers lie in Chile and form solely in the Andes).
Scientists have actually long been scratching their heads about how the glacier mice form and survive, but they do know that when glacial winds unite clumps of dust and organic particles, a layer of moss can form around the clump to create a ball. This development keeps most of the moss from having direct contact with the ice.
Of course the truth that a plant can flourish in such a cold climate and sterile ground is unexpected, but the secret goes much deeper. Despite not having feet or tentacles of any sort, these squishy moss balls can move.
If you’re believing you’ve fixed the case and think wind or a downhill slope is propelling their movement, researchers too hoped that was the factor. They found out that glacier mice travel with fantastic intentionality, moving in sync with their fellow mossy friends in a herdlike fashion.
Researchers note that the ice beneath the moss ball is safeguarded from the sun, and as the surrounding ice melts, the glacier mice are left perched atop a tiny ice pedestal. It seems they then throw in some gymnastics, rolling off the pedestal into a new position that orients the bottom portion of the ball towards the sun to keep it from dying.
No one knows yet why or how they relocate herds, however according to an interview in Popular Science, Bartholomaus is experimenting with the idea that the irregular shape of the arctic fuzz balls– one fat end and one skinny end– causes them to always roll in one instructions. In the future, scientists want to use time-lapse electronic cameras to track the movements of a big group of mice over a long period of time along with explore whether the sediment atop the glacier is a type of ashes that develops the ideal environment for them to grow.
The glacial secret continues, but scientists are on the case, wishing to better comprehend the surprisingly abundant glacial community and accentuate the rapid loss of glaciers each year.