In the light of data from the Greenland ice sheet concerning the ice-age climate, and palaeoecological studies of interglacial and Early Holocene deposits, the concept that a large proportion of Greenland's plants and animals may have survived during the ice ages is evaluated. While ice-free areas (refugias) were present, it is concluded that only hardy, cold-adapted species could have survived, which also explains why so few clearly endemic species are present in Greenland. Most members of the present biota are considered to be postglacial immigrants. Some species came to Greenland by walking or flying, but most arrived by passive, long-distance, chance dispersal, carried by wind, sea currents, and, in particular, birds. Transport by birds may explain why so many species arrived from Europe, because vast numbers of geese in particular migrate from northwest Europe to Greenland.