Cambridge: Antarctic Researchers Find Undiscovered Life

10 December 2013, 06:00

More than thirty new and, as yet unclassified, species of marine life were discovered during a science expedition to the Amundsen Sea off Pine Island Bay in Antarctica.

The Amundsen Sea is one of the least explored areas of the Southern Ocean. It contains several deep troughs and basins formed during previous ice ages. Some are more than 1,600 metres deep.

In 2008 a team of marine biologists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and collaborating institutes took part in a summer research cruise to study the sea-bed fauna in the area. 

Sea Cucumber - BASBrain like sea cucumber
 
 
The Amundsen Sea can be difficult to access for most of the year as it is covered with sea ice. But summer sea-ice extent is declining and, during the months February to April, the scientists were able to navigate right up to the continental ice-shelf edge and carry out a number of trawls. A total of 5,469 specimens, from 275 species, were brought to the surface.

As well as the new species, some of those recovered had not been seen in Antarctic waters before. 

Urchin - British Antarctic SurveyHeart urchin

What surprised the scientists was the extent of the various communities living in the deep troughs. It’s thought they may have taken refuge in them during past periods of glacial expansion.

Lead research author Katrin Linse said: "At least 10% of all the species collected are new to science, and this figure is likely to rise with further genetic identification." 

Bristle - British Antarctic SurveyBristle-cage worm with neon yellow bristles - likely to be completely newly classified creature

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