And I love the biodiversity.
Polar regions are renowned for the breadth of animals they possess. I'm not talking about polar bears and penguins (you know me better than that). I'm talking about the animals underwater, on the bottom of the sea. Polar benthic invertebrates have extremely high diversity - more than you would ever expect. You see, oceans in both the Arctic and Antarctic have low temperatures and low productivity, characteristics suggesting that very little would grow there. But exactly the opposite is true. The seafloor in both polar regions is covered by an incredibly diverse array of fauna. In fact, the colder areas are the ones with the highest diversity, to the point that a single trawl could supply an invertebrate zoology class.
|Animals collected by divers in McMurdo Sound|
I'm anxious to test out my ideas in the Antarctic, because the biodiversity in McMurdo Sound is absolutely incredible. Some divers from the station collected animals for us, which are currently living in seawater tanks in the Station's main lab. There are sponges and soft corals and sea stars and scallops and slugs and anemones.
Because it's so cold and dark under the ice, the conditions are similar to the deep sea, and there are actually many taxa living at shallow depths in Antarctica that are usually only found in the deep sea. For example, the soft coral you see in the photo above is called Gersemia antarctica. It's closely related to another species, Gersemia fruticosa, that lives on the continental slope of the north Atlantic, far offshore and at much greater depth.
|Sea stars from McMurdo Sound|