Scientists have discovered Antarctic marine life locked under ice for half a century

German researchers have discovered marine life along the Antarctic bottom for the first time in decades after a giant iceberg retrieved from the continent’s ice sheet last month. .

The iceberg, known as the A-74, disappeared about two weeks ago and began to move through the Weddell Sea.


As the only nearby research vessel, the Polarstern ice researcher seized the opportunity to explore, passing through the gap between the A-74 and the Brunt Ice Shelf.

Life on Antactic Seafloor, where a huge A74 iceberg landed from the Brunt ice shelf (eatsern Weddell Sea) two weeks before scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute and international colleagues arrived in the area with RV Polarstern. Photographs taken by OFOBS (Ocean Observation System and Bathymetry). A marine anenome with a diameter of 10 cm uses a small rock as a substrate. A variety of shrimp and small fish can be part of the diet of this ice animal.

Their team was made up of scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and other international partners, according to a press release Wednesday.

“Once in a lifetime” photographs taken by the team showed a “remarkable level of biodiversity and sediment samples taken from the seabed are expected to” provide a more detailed view of the ecosystem. “


In addition, geochemical analysis of the collected water samples allows decisions to be made regarding nutrient content and marine currents.

Video footage and an extensive collection of photographs taken using the OFOBS (Ocean Floor Vision and Bathymetry System) revealed life deep beneath the surface and a number of organisms surrounded by a silty landscape.

OFOBOS floor observation and bathymetry system aboard the Polarstern research vessel

OFOBOS floor observation and bathymetry system aboard the Polarstern research vessel

Most of these creatures were spawning grounds, although experts also found sea cucumbers, starfish, molluscs, at least five species of fish and two species of squid.

Hundreds of marine species live in Antarctic waters but, as LiveScience reported on Friday, the presence of phytoplankton – dependent sun feeders – which depend on sun for photosynthesis – was a meter away. fon deigh.

AWI noted in the news that the research was crucial to gaining a better understanding of calf birth events and that it is rarely near an area free of ice and in contact with sunlight – especially for a mountain. as big as the A-74.

The team also set up research booths in the area to collect data on temperature, salinity and ocean current speeds.

It is a move they believe will help scientists make more accurate climate models for the region while Antarctica continues to lose ice mass at alarming rates.


“These data form the basis of our simulations of how the ice sheet will respond to climate change. As a result, we can say with a higher degree of certainty how fast sea levels in the sea will rise. future – and will provide the political community and society at large with good data for making decisions on essential climate change adaptation measures, “said AWI physicist and tour chief, Dr Hartmut Hellmer.