First comprehensive 'inventory' of life in Antarctica

Dec 01, 2008

The first comprehensive "inventory" of sea and land animals around a group of Antarctic islands reveals a region that is rich in biodiversity and has more species than the Galapagos. The study provides an important benchmark to monitor how they will respond to future environmental change.

Reporting this week in the Journal of Biogeography, the team from British Antarctic Survey and University of Hamburg, describe how they combed the land, sea and shores of the South Orkney Islands, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, using scuba divers and trawled nets to catch creatures as deep as 1500 metres.

Animals recorded were then checked with a century of literature and modern databases and the team concludes there are over 1200 known marine and land species. These include sea urchins, free-swimming worms, crustaceans and molluscs, mites and birds. Five were new to science.

Lead author Dr David Barnes from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) says: "This is the first time anybody has done an inventory like this in the polar regions. It's part of the Census of Marine Life (COML) – an international effort to assess and explain the diversity and distribution of marine life in the world's oceans. If we are to understand how these animals will respond to future change, a starting point like this is really important."

Author Stefanie Kaiser from University of Hamburg says:
"We never knew there were so many different species on and around these islands. This abundance of life was completely unexpected for a location in the polar regions, previously perceived to be poor in biodiversity."

The research team, consisting of 23 scientists from five research institutes, spent seven weeks on the BAS Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross in 2006.

Source: British Antarctic Survey

Explore further: High-pitched sounds cause seizures in old cats

Related Stories

The TRMM rainfall mission comes to an end after 17 years

Apr 09, 2015

In 1997 when the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, or TRMM, was launched, its mission was scheduled to last just a few years. Now, 17 years later, the TRMM mission has come to an end. NASA and the Japan ...

New clues from the dawn of the solar system

Mar 16, 2015

A research group in the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has found evidence in meteorites that hint at the discovery of a previously unknown region within the swirling disk of dust and gas known as the protoplanetary ...

Seafloor volcano pulses may alter climate

Feb 05, 2015

Vast ranges of volcanoes hidden under the oceans are presumed by scientists to be the gentle giants of the planet, oozing lava at slow, steady rates along mid-ocean ridges. But a new study shows that they ...

Recommended for you

Chromosome-folding theory shows promise

22 minutes ago

Human chromosomes are much bigger and more complex than proteins, but like proteins, they appear to fold and unfold in an orderly process as they carry out their functions in cells.

Species' evolutionary choice—disperse or adapt?

42 minutes ago

Dispersal and adaptation are two fundamental evolutionary strategies available to species given an environment. Generalists, like dandelions, send their offspring far and wide. Specialists, like alpine flowers, ...

Genetic variation is a necessity

1 hour ago

The Earth is constantly changing. For new species to be able to adapt and cope with the changes, there must be sufficient genetic diversity, or genetic variation, in the population. But what type of diversity is required ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.