Who says nothing good comes out of “global warming?”
At least 30 strange creatures that are new to science, including a psychedelic octopus, have been found in frigid waters off Antarctica in one of the world’s most pristine marine environments.Researchers with the International Polar Year research effort catalogued about 1,000 species in an area of the Antarctic seabed where warming temperatures are believed to have caused the collapse of overlying ice shelves, affecting the marine life below.
The expedition also found sea lilies, sea cucumbers and sea urchins thriving on the sea floor â€” these species are usually found in much deeper waters where food is scarce, but the ice shelves probably made food scarcer than it would usually be at that shallow depth.
In the Weddell Sea off the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, 10,000 square kilometers of seabed was sealed off from the surface for thousands of years by the 100-meter thick Larsen A and B ice shelves.
When these ice shelves collapsed in recent years, the area was opened up to colonization by species that could not have survived there before.
One of the main aims of the expedition was to survey both indigenous life-forms and creatures that had moved in after the collapse to take advantage of the newly opened environment.
Gutt said that 95 percent of the animals the expedition found were probably indigenous and just 5 percent had moved in after the ice shelves collapsed, but even that small percentage indicated a shift in biodiversity and species composition in the area which will probably continue.
The expedition also found scours created by icebergs that calved from the ice sheets and ran aground on the sea bed, destroying the life in the area, but the damage wasn’t as bad as expected.
“I expected more, because if there are thousands of icebergs disintegrated, or calved, in a very short period of only a few months, then I expected that everything would be destroyed. But it was not,” Gutt said.
The expedition actually found more evidence of disturbance outside the Larsen ice shelf area at points where many icebergs must pass.
But in the areas icebergs had destroyed, Gutt said, signs of life were returning.
I can’t wait to see what else they find!