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".
Dr. Angelika Dummermuth | EurekAlert!
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...
Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.
Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...
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