Glass Tulips,”and Other Eco Systems Found in Antarctic Seabed
Posted February 25, 2008on:
The tunicates, which resemble glass tulips, are early colonizers of Antarctic regions that have been disturbed by icebergs that scour the seafloor as they pass by.
The animals are among many mysterious creatures collected from the icy waters by scientists of the Australian Antarctic Division.
At 10 inches (250 millimeters) long and weighing 11 ounces (300 grams), the worm is an example of a phenomenon called ”gigantism,” which scientists still do not fully understand.
”Gigantism is very common in Antarctic waters,” Martin Riddle said in a statement released February 19, 2008. The Australian Antarctic Division scientist led the recent expedition that photographed this worm and other animals.
”We have collected huge worms, giant crustaceans, and sea spiders the size of dinner plates.”
Here brightly colored coralline bryozoans and sponges create a habitat for other species such as octopus, mollusks, and fish.
Bryozoans have similar calcium carbonate skeletons as tropical corals, though they belong to a different biological group.
Scientists from Australia, France, and Japan collected specimens from up to 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) beneath the oceans off Antarctica during a two-month census of Antarctica led by the Australian Antarctic Division.
The specimens will be sent to universities and museums around the world for identification, tissue sampling, and DNA studies, the Associated Press reported on February 20, 2008.
“Not all of the creatures that we found could be identified and it is very likely that some new species will be recorded as a result of these voyages,” Graham Hosie, head of the census project, told the AP.