Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seafloor creatures destroyed by ice action during ice ages

18.10.2005


The ice ages made massive changes to the Earth’s landscape. But what was happening below the ice in the oceans?

Research by marine scientists reveals that it was a time of mass destruction as whole communities of animals were wiped out by ice sheets scouring the sea floor.

In the past it has been thought that these ecosystems somehow dodged extinction by recolonising from nearby habitats that escaped obliteration. But researchers at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOC) and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) reveal a bleaker scenario.



Dr Sven Thatje, an ecologist at NOC has been working with geoscientists, Dr Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand and Dr Rob Larter at BAS examining one of the harshest environments on Earth - the Antarctic seafloor.

Writing in the October issue of Trends in Ecology & Evolution the scientists provide new evidence that suggests that seafloor organisms were either erased by the advance of ice sheets across the Antarctic continental shelf or starved to death as links in the food chain were broken by the permanent ice cover. There would have been no refuge for shallower living animals further down the continental slope, as huge sediment slides would have buried them. Typically these ecosystems would have been made up of sponges, urchins, sea fan corals, and starfish.

Dr Thatje said: ’We show that during ice ages seafloor organisms emigrated to the deep sea - below the effects of the sediment slides and ice. From there, organisms may have invaded open marine shelters of the Antarctic shelf, which were not affected by the advance of ice masses. Or these animals may have recolonised the Antarctic shelf from the deep-sea during the warm period following each ice age.

’Either way it is an impressive feat against the odds as the extreme cold means that these animals respond much more slowly to the destruction of their habitat than elsewhere in the oceans. They have lower metabolic rates that lower their growth and reproductive rates. Elsewhere in the oceans, a brisingid starfish would reproduce annually and live for ten years. In the Antarctic these starfish can reach 100-years-old but reproduce only once every ten years. This means that full community recuperation takes up to hundreds of years.’

Dr Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand explained: ’Until now it was commonly thought that the destructive action of the ice sheets was not significant enough to eradicate all the fauna and that desolate patches were recolonised from surrounding areas. But our research confirms that the destruction was wholesale with very little surviving. Even today calving icebergs ploughing across the seafloor destroy everything in their path. Imagine the impact of ice sheets during the ice ages that covered a much wider area in a time of lower sea levels.’

The team’s research will lead to a radical rethink of the evolutionary history of Antarctica as the work challenges all the accepted theories. The scientists argue that shallow water animals were retreating to the deep ocean and then returning to recolonise Antartica’s shelf seas. Clues to how these two very different communities could have achieved this may lie in the animals’ DNA.

Sven Thatje continued: ’Our work means that the text books will need to be rewritten. Our next task is to reconstruct what happened in Antarctica during these periods of climate change and study the genetic and biological links between deep sea and shallow water communities.’

Kim Marshall-Brown | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.soton.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>