Mysteries and Facts of Tibetan Plateau | What Scientists found on The Roof Of The World 2021
For thousands of years, the glaciers of the Tibetan plateau have been a time capsule holding secrets of our earth’s history. These glaciers have always been of special interest in scientists hunting for clues from our past.
The focus of their search has mostly been fossils and other man-made artifacts but sometimes they end up finding something very unexpected and with unpredictable consequences.
In 2015 when researchers embarked on an expedition to retrieve the oldest ice on the planet they were planning to look for clues about our past climate, but during the journey to the gilea ice cap in the Tibetan plateau, they accidentally discovered some 15000-year-old viruses.
After investigating two deep ice cores from the glacier at a depth of 50 meters the existence of 33 virus groups was revealed out of which four were known to the scientists but the other 28were completely novel.
Immediately they set about rigorously studying the samples to figure out if these ancient viruses were deadly to humans and if they’ve unearthed something that they shouldn’t have as these virus groups were completely new to science.
To rule out any contamination, the scientists had to develop an original method to study the microbes in the lab to access the inner part of the ice cores. The researchers set up shop in a cold room with a temperature of 23 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 5 degrees celsius.
They used a sterilized band saw to cut away 0.2 inches or 0.5 centimeters of ice from the outer layer, then the researchers washed the ice cores with ethanol to melt another 0.2 inches of ice, finally, they washed the last 0.2 inches away with sterile water after all this work of shaving off just 0.6 inches or one and a half centimeters of ice. The researchers reached an uncontaminated layer that they could study.
They published all their findings in January 2020. The viral groups they found, represent the microbes that were present in the atmosphere at the time almost 15000 years ago.
They were trapped in the ice giving scientists a window to understanding the past climate and microbial evolution. The microbes not only differed significantly across the two ice cores but were also depth specific indicating very different climatic conditions among the ice samples at the time of deposition.
Thankfully these viruses posed no danger to anyone and investigating them had helped scientists on two fronts.
One, these stowaways gave important information to researchers about how ancient microbes thrived in different climates and environments.
It also revealed a lot about their evolution over time and how modern microbes and viruses came to be.
Second, if ancient pathogens were to be released into our environment due to the melting of ice caused by climate change, this information can come in very handy.
Thus, it’s in our best interest to know as much about these viruses in advance as possible so that in a worst-case scenario scientists can do something to prevent their spread over a large population.
The Tibetan plateau is not just home to ancient pathogens but the region is a treasure trove of history waiting to be discovered.
Watch the full video in Bangla at YouTube.