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The Pampas under the microscope

Those admiring the Pampas grasslands may not notice the abundance of pollen grains that compose the landscape. Biologist Jefferson Nunes Radaeski sees this diversity not only in space, but also in time. His research indicates that grasses have dominated the cool, dry environment of the Pampas for 10,000 years. Forests of bamboo, whose pollen grains are larger, started appearing on the landscape around 3,000 years ago. The result is a mosaic of fields with patches of forest, even to this day. In the picture above, the largest pollen grain is from a bamboo plant and the smaller grains are from grasses—the gray images were obtained using an optical microscope and the yellow images using an electron microscope.

Image submitted by Jefferson Nunes Radaeski, a researcher at the Online Pollen Catalogues Network (RCPol), Lutheran University of Brazil.

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