The fastest living plant in the world has been found in the north African desert, researchers said today, as they hunted for ways to slow the accelerating rate of climate change.
The temperature of the tiny arid animals has fallen by as much as 20C in the past decade and they can eat plants grown in colder climates and still survive. Their carbon footprint is therefore much smaller than that of the average human.
Intelligent species including bison and crocodiles occupy the dense foliage in the form of mouth- and leg-pockets, so they can suck petrol and gulp it – and we consume far more in food than they can eat.
Virtually every creature on the planet needs a source of material to survive and die, and the fast-growing insects seem to hold a special lottery in the hunt.
Tom Barker, a UK-based writer and academic with the Nanotechnology International Centre in Singapore, said he and his colleagues had made his first insect find in one of the harshest environments on Earth – the Sahara.
“We’ve found clever ants that survive and thrive without dependents, which is a first for any insect in this part of the world,” Mr Barker said in a statement.
“The low-oxygen environment in the Sahara creates a rare combination of surface area and growth dependent microbes. As the Australian and US governments have done with water scarcity, we thought we’d find something new that had never been observed before.”
The researchers have taken specimens from gardens and restaurants in the Sahara, alongside rocks in caves in a valley on the borders of Algeria and Morocco.
“We wanted to see if any of the European species existed in the area. At this time, most had vanished.
“If the findings are confirmed in other places, they would boost evidence that we have lost most of the species that used to grow in the Sahara.”