Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cold Fish

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW





For the past few years an international team of scientist have been exploring the waters around the Antarctic continent. The research is part of the Antarctic Benthic Deep-Sea Biodiversity Project and they have discovered over 700 new species:

Heart-shaped sea urchins, carnivorous sponges, and giant sea spiders the size of dinner plates are among the surprising discoveries brought up from the seafloor about 2,300 to 19,700 feet (700 to 6,000 meters) beneath the Antarctic waves.

We were astonished by the enormous biodiversity we found in many groups of species," said study lead author Angelika Brandt, a marine biologist at the University of Hamburg in Germany.

"We used to think that, with decreasing nutrient and food availability, there might cause a decrease in biodiversity toward the Poles," Brandt said.

"There were a lot of species we hadn't seen before, because so little was known before we started," said study co-author Brigitte Ebbe, a marine biologist at the German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research in Willhelmshaven. .....

"In other oceans the number of species drops the deeper you go," said study co-author Katrin Linse, a marine biologist at the British Antarctic Survey. "But in the Southern Ocean we found the opposite trend."....

“The great advantage in the Antarctic is that the water column is cold all the way up,” said Angelika Brandt, a marine biologist at the University of Hamburg in Germany, “so we can bring material up on deck and extract DNA before it becomes damaged by heat.”

More photos of the unique sealife can be found here.