Water And Oceanography

Biological Composition of Arctic and Antarctic Seas

Julie Thomas-Zucker's image for:
"Biological Composition of Arctic and Antarctic Seas"
Image by: 

The biological composition of the Arctic and Antarctic seas shows very unique properties in recent days. The seas have very, very low temperatures and little or no sunlight. The water is acidic with hydrogen sulfide with low levels of chloride. The high acid is usually toxic to most animals.  Researchers from Oxford University found new species of pycnogonids or sea spiders, octopus, sea anemones, seven-armed predatory sea stars, stalked barnacles and yeti crabs.

Thermal vents seem to be the place where new life is taking hold. There, the creatures must convert chemicals found in the earth's interior into energy. These animals are unique to this part of the world only. Scientists first found other animals in the Galapagos Islands living near the hydrothermal vents in 1977. The water columns show that animal life lives in the vents of the Arctic and Antarctic seas.

Using remote controlled vehicles, scientists see what actually happens under the ocean. A specialized camera also helps scientists learn more about these unique spaces. Seabed High Resolution Imaging Platform (SHRIMP) saw stalking barnacles and anemones near the vents. Ridges are the resting places for the creatures and along the chimneys and columns that form the hydrothermal vents.

Bacteria abound near the hydrothermal sites and seem to change the way the older animals behave and grow. Zooplankton, phytoplankton, and bacterial cells make up seawater. The Arctic Sea provides many animals both land and sea with food.

The yeti crab has more dense setae and may even eat the bacteria to gain nutrition that it lacks because of where it lives. Large groups of crabs settle near the vents with the males living the closest. Females tend to stay in the cooler waters away from the vents.

Five species of sea anemones call the vents home all from the family of Actinostolidae and includes a red anemone similar to Chrondophellia.

The vents in Antarctica lacked many of the creatures found elsewhere including tubeworms, polychaetes, clams, mussels, and shrimp. Also, scientists did not find the usual crab predators.  

Because the Arctic remains frozen for much of the year, scientists and researchers have not explored it as much. With the technological advances of the remote controlled vehicles and the imaging devices that can reach far into the deep, discoveries become possible. Global warming has played a part in the ocean exploration. Everyone wants to how the melting of the ice caps will affect the rest of the world. 

More about this author: Julie Thomas-Zucker

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001234
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001234