Earth Science News  





. A Wanderlust Of Deep-Sea Fauna Under Antarctic Ice Shelf

Sea cucumbers and stalked feather stars. Credit: Julian Gutt/Alfred Wegener Institute
by Staff Writers
Bremerhaven, Germany (SPX) Jan 25, 2007
Under the former Larsen ice shelf east of the Antarctic Peninsula, deep-sea sea cucumbers and stalked feather stars were ubiquitously found in shallow waters. These animals usually inhabit far greater water depths. The main aim of the current Polarstern expedition to Antarctica is the investigation of marine ecosystems under the former Larsen ice shelf.

This "white spot" with regard to biodiversity research gave rise to the following questions: What kind of life actually existed under the former floating ice shelf which was up to several hundreds of meters thick? What are the prospects for the future after the collapse of the ice shelf?

Obviously, prosperous life did not exist in the area where the Larsen B ice shelf broke off three years ago. This is surprising since Antarctica's seafloor communities are known for their rich assemblages of sessile sponges, cnidarians and moss animals. Instead, underwater video footage and catches of towed sampling gear revealed the dominance of typical deep-sea animals and corresponding life forms.

Here, sea cucumbers and stalked feather stars are the main representatives. These deep-sea inhabitants belong to a group called echinoderms. Until now, stalked feather stars have only been found sporadically and then only below 800m water depths in this sector of Antarctica. But locally in the Larsen B region, they occurred rather frequently at depths of merely 200m. "During my nine expeditions to Antarctica, the only time I have seen the two most abundant species of sea cucumbers was below the far bigger Filchner-Ronne ice shelf further south."

This second encounter brought back chief scientist Julian Gutt's memories of his first trip to Antarctica and his PhD thesis 21 years ago. Preliminary results show that a unique macrofauna exists in conjunction with the ice shelf. The sea cucumber Elpidia is probably the most prominent deep-sea animal but is also known to occur in shallow Arctic waters. Maybe this is the reason why this animal is aptly named glacialis (icy) especially with regard to our confirmatory findings on the opposite pole - Antarctica.

This species, its bigger "sister" Scotoplanes globosa and other relatives according to their feeding mode are referred to as grazers. Myriads of single-celled algae that sink down to the seafloor are literally grazed by herds of sea cucumbers. The oceanographer Enrique Isla is excited about further processing the collected data back in the Marine Sciences Institute (ICM) in Barcelona.

"Our measurements of environmental parameters of the sediment and the water column will contribute to answer the question, why there are such similarities between habitat use of the deep-sea and below the former ice shelf." Scientists on this expedition will meet again in autumn in Barcelona to work on a synthesis of various results combining the different aspects of ecosystem components.

This workshop will be hosted by the ICM and is supported by the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML). Marine ecologist Julian Gutt is looking to the future: "The minute we have a better understanding of how ecosystems under the ice shelf work we might dare to put forward prognoses how biodiversity on the seafloor changes with respect to ongoing atmospheric warming".

Related Links
Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Beyond the Ice Age

Lenin Greets Antarctic Adventurers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 23, 2007
A team of British and Canadian adventurers has described the "surreal" experience of arriving at the most remote point in Antarctica -- only to find a bust of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin. The team was the first to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI), the point on the Antarctic continent that is farthest from all surrounding seas, on foot. But an expedition from the former Soviet Union, using huge mechanised snow vehicles, reached the pole in 1958 and set up a small camp there.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • Mud Volcano In Java May Continue To Erupt For Months And Possibly Years
  • FTMSC Signs Partnership With Telecoms Sans Frontieres
  • Indonesian Mud Volcano Caused By Drilling
  • Indonesian Mud Volcano Is Probably A Natural Event

  • Bush Refuses To Yield On Global Warming
  • Artificial Worlds Hold Key To Figuring Out A Real Problem
  • The IPCC The Most Powerful Acronym No One Has Heard Of
  • Russian Winter Warmest On Record

  • GeoEye Next-Generation Earth Imaging Satellite Reaches Major Milestone
  • Chairman Reacts to National Academies' Earth Science and Applications Assessment
  • US Climate Satellites Imperiled By Low Federal Funding Say EO Scientists
  • Japanese Government Initiates Space-Borne Hyperspectral Payload Program

  • Embattled Bush Launches Greenhouse Gas Crusade
  • A Daily Snapshot Of Carbon Usage In Figures
  • B-52 Undergoes Synthetic-Fuel Cold Weather Testing At Minot
  • US Chief Executives Urge Bush To Tackle Global Warming

  • Scientists Reveal A Virus' Secret Weapon
  • Study Uncovers A Lethal Secret Of 1918 Influenza Virus
  • World's Response To Children With Aids 'Tragically Insufficient'
  • UN Body Says EU Ban On Wild Bird Imports Won't Help Stop Bird Flu

  • Shotgun Sequencing Slime
  • Study Explains How Costly Traits Evolve
  • The Great Preserver
  • Big Vegetarian Mammals Play Critical Role In Maintaining Healthy Ecosystems

  • Flights To Avoid Indonesian Mud Volcano Postponed
  • Lead With A Poisonous Electron Shield
  • Oil Slick Fouls Hundreds Of Birds Off Norway
  • Unlocking Pollutants' Effects

  • Paleontologists Discover Most Primitive Primate Skeleton
  • Unprecedented Screening For Lifespan-Extending Compounds to Get Underway
  • Next Up In The Battle Against Cancer
  • Putting A Face On The Earliest Modern Europeans

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement