The first exciting clues that Antarctica had not always been ice-covered were the leaf fossils
of Glossopteris plants that Scott’s party brought back from the Beardmore Glacier region in 1912.
Since dated at ~ 250 million years old, it has become evident that Antarctica has been vegetated
longer than it has been ice-covered. These first plant fossils from the Beardmore have led to over
100 years of scientific investigation of the rich macro- (e.g. leaves and fossil wood) and micro-
(terrestrial and marine palynomorph) fossil record of Antarctica. Palynomorphs from the
sedimentary record of Antarctica continue to provide an exceptionally detailed interpretation of
high latitude vegetation and climate from Devonian to Neogene times, complementing and
extending the macrofossil record. They document the transition from the Glossopteris-dominated Gondwanan flora to more modern conifer and then beech-dominated polar forests, followed
eventually by a less diverse and lower stature vegetation as climates cooled and ice sheets
became large and relatively stable into the Neogene. Continued research into terrestrial and
marine palynomorphs provides essential insight into the environmental sensitivity of the polar
regions in a future warmer world.