Giant creatures discovered in seas around the Antarctic.

For those who are interested in the marvels of the Southern Ocean near the East Antarctic land mass, I include a link filled with amazing images released yesterday by the Australian Antarctic Division. An expedition uncovered a remarkably rich, colourful and complex range of marine life in this previously unknown environment.

The return of the last of three Antarctic marine science research vessels marks the culmination of one of Australia’s most ambitious International Polar Year projects, a census of life in the icy Southern Ocean known as the Collaborative East Antarctic Marine Census (CEAMARC).

Australia’s Aurora Australis and collaborating vessels L’Astrolobe (France) and Umitaka Maru (Japan) have returned from the Southern Ocean, their decks overflowing with a vast array of ocean life including a number of previously unknown species collected from the cold waters near the East Antarctic land mass.

In a press release, Dr Martin Riddle of the Aurora Australis reported that

“Some of the video footage we have collected is really stunning – it’s amazing to be able to navigate undersea mountains and valleys and actually see what the animals look like in their undisturbed state,” he said.

“In some places every inch of the sea floor is covered in life. In other places we can see deep scars and gouges where icebergs scour the sea floor as they pass by. Gigantism is very common in Antarctic waters – we have collected huge worms, giant crustaceans and sea spiders the size of dinner plates.

The Census of Antarctic Marine Life will survey the biodiversity of Antarctic slopes, abyssal plains, open water, and under disintegrating ice shelves. The census aims to determine species biodiversity, abundance and distribution and establish a baseline dataset from which future changes can be observed.

Excellent broadcast-quality video footage and high quality images are available at the Australian Antarctic Division link highlighted above and readers are encouraged to explore the information found there. Good images are also available at the site of the journal Nature.

It is ventures such as these that highlight the importance of protecting the biodiversity of these unexplored areas. It shows that climate change may destroy ecosystems and lifeforms that we are yet to encounter. Census data collected is vital to understanding the changes if any that occur over time.

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Thursday, 21 February, 2008.

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