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Biological research by the British Antarctic Survey

first_imgThe Antarctic Peninsula, the islands rising from the Scotia Ridge, and the Falkland Islands are a key area for biologists interested in the origin, relationships, and adaptations of the Antarctic flora and fauna. Of all Antarctic regions, furthermore, this has perhaps been the most intensively studied. The pioneer observations of J. R. and J. G. Forster during Cook’s circumnavigation in 1772–75, and of James Eights in 1833 (Caiman, 1937), supplemented by the less systematic accounts of those engaged in early nineteenth-century sealing and whaling voyages (Weddell, 1825; Allen, 1899) paved the way for the thorough scientific programmes of more modern expeditions. The first of these, the Belgica expedition under de Gerlache, 1897–99, yielded much general information and brought back an apterous fly {Belgica antarctica),the first higher insect to be discovered in the true Antarctic. Soon afterwards, the Swedish South Polar Expedition led by Nordenskjold, 1901–04, brought to the Antarctic an outstanding botanist, the late C. J. F. Skottsberg, whose botanical researches on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic themes were to last for over half a century (Skottsberg, 1963). During the following decade the two French expeditions led by Charcot, 1903–05 and 1908–10, contributed important microbiological and ornithological information, and in 1902–04 the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition under Bruce made the first study of the South Orkney Islands and provided a general evaluation of botanical and biogeographical problems (Rudmose Brown, 1912). All these expeditions made general collections of flora and fauna which revealed that the Antarctic Peninsula and its adjacent islands were the richest area, biologically speaking, of the whole Antarctic region. Farther north, the Swedish Magellanic Expedition, led by Skottsberg in 1907–09, provided what is still the only published account of the vegetation of the Falkland Islands and information vital to the evaluation of biogeographical relationships between the Scotia Ridge, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the Magellanic region of South America. Skottsberg (1912) also described the vegetation of South Georgia, where pioneer work had been done by Will during the German International Polar Year expedition, 1882–83. The botanical work on this island, up to 1964, has recently been comprehensively reviewed by Greene (1964a).last_img read more

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