Australian researchers want to use octopus DNA to tease out whether a trans-Antarctic seaway linking the Weddell and Amundsen seas was exposed during the last interglacial period, some 120,000 years ago, the Guardian writes.
In a perspective piece in Quaternary Science Reviews, James Cook University's Jan Strugnell and her colleagues describe their plan to use octopus DNA from individuals living around the continent to determine whether octopus ancestors were able to move through the seaway. If the ancient octopuses were able to make that journey that means the West Antarctic Ice Sheet had melted, the Guardian notes.
Strugnell tells the paper the approach would be similar to how human ancestry is gauged. "The genome of the species contains signatures of what happened to populations in the past and different demographic changes — these are all held within that DNA," she tells the Guardian.
During the last interglacial period, the Earth about as warm as it's predicted that climate change could lead to if not addressed, the Guardian notes. It adds that learning whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted 120,000 years ago could inform estimates of sea level rise due to climate change.