These cute fluffy “green mice” move across the Arctic under the influence of vague forces

(ORDO NEWS) — For decades, scientists have been intrigued and fascinated by small moss balls that slowly make their way through arctic glaciers. Now we know more about how these green mice travel.

Although there have been several reports of observing these moss balls, little research has been done so far on how they move and how they develop – information that is not least useful because these rolling clusters are home to different species of invertebrate life.

To try and get answers, a new study analyzed 30 mosses on a native glacier in Alaska using bead bracelets to measure the movements of the beads over four years.

“These ovoid conglomerates of mud and moss are found only on some surfaces of the glacier and provide key habitats and colonization of invertebrates,” the researchers write in their article.

“Nevertheless, despite the fact that their presence is widely reported, no studies of their movement and development have been conducted for many years.”

It is believed that moss “mice” get their origin from small stones or other impurities in the ice, which causes the accumulation of various types of moss and sediments.

Although these moss balls have been found on a small number of glaciers around the world, it seems that they need a yet unknown set of environmental conditions to begin to form.

While previous studies have shown that moss balls moved and rolled – probably so that each side could see life-giving sunlight – a new study shows that clusters actually move together in certain directions.

Not that this movement was particularly fast: a group of 30 mosses moved at an average speed of 2.5 centimeters per day. Wherever they move, they are in no hurry, but the movement is somehow coordinated.

“The entire colony of moss balls, this entire group, moves at about the same speed and in the same directions,” said Nell Greenfieldboyce, glaciologist Tim Bartholomew of the University of Idaho. “These speeds and directions may change over the course of several weeks.”

“By examining them, we realized that these individual moss balls lived for at least five, six years, and possibly much, much longer.”

With the help of moss balls, which are one of the few sources of nutrients for invertebrate organisms, such as springtails, tardigrades and nematodes on the glacier, scientists understandably seek to learn more about how they function and the forces that affect them.

And although the latest study answers some questions – the movement of mosses does not seem random – it raises a few more questions, for example, why these clusters move in the same direction for a while before changing direction again.

Studying the glacier itself, the researchers found that this is not due to the slope of the ice, or the prevailing winds, or sunlight. There is some other unknown force directing mosses – and this may be an ideal mystery for future research.

“We could not explain the direction of motion of the moss ball, given the physical surface of the glacier (that is, the direction of descent), the intensity of ablation of ice ice and the patterns of solar radiation,” the researchers conclude.

“Thus, it seems that until now an unknown external force affects the movement of ice moss on the primary glacier.”

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