The continuous daylight conditions of summer in Antarctica are known to interfere with physiological functions such as sleep patterns and the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with circadian rhythms and sleep. Now, a study offers new information about why people in this region sleep poorly, and suggests that social behavior may also play a role. The study, published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology, was chosen as an APSselect article for March.
Finding fossils needs a lot of patience, knowledge of geology and the history of the environment... or simply a lot of luck. A fossil collector found in New Zealand's Waipara River area in the region of Canterbury by chance the remains of a huge ancient penguin. After thorough examination by scientists from New Zealand and Germany, the age of the fossilized bones was estimated around 61 million years old. According to the researchers, the oldest penguin now known resembled the modern king penguins of today but was more than 150 centimeters talll. This makes it more than 30 centimeters bigger than emperor penguins, the largest modern penguin. The results by the scientists mean that penguin evolution started much earlier than previously estimated. It is probable that the divergencce of penguins from their relatives happened during the age of the dinosaurs.
Increased meltwater influx from the glaciers of Antarctica are considered one of the most pressing consequences of climate change on the Southern Ocean. However, the fate meltwater which flows out from underneath the glaciers was unknown until now. An international team of researchers has discovered why this fresh water is often detected below the surface of the ocean, rather than rising to the top above denser seawater. The team found that the Earth’s rotation influences the way meltwater behaves – keeping it at depths of several hundred metres.
Scientists plan to fly 10,000 live krill from Antarctica out to Australia as part of a ground-breaking study to monitor the effects of climate change. Working with the Australian Antarctic Division, the researchers are the first to attempt such a project in the world. The Royal Australian Air Force will transport the valuable freight in special containers from Wilkins Aerodrome, near Australia’s Casey research station, to Hobart in Tasmania.
Antarctica still holds many mysteries and secrets for scientists to discover. One of the latest branches of Antarctic science is the search for microbial lifeforms under the massive ice sheet. In the latest quest, a group of US scientists will head down to the seventh continent and search for ancient bacteria in one of the driest and apparently most lifeless areas of the world. The researchers hope to find clues to understand how life can endure extreme cold and dry conditions, not only on Earth but also on other planets.
A team of European scientists heads to East Antarctica to locate the oldest ice on Earth. The team’s goal is to search for a suitable site to drill an ice core to capture 1.5 million years of Earth’s climate history. Such a core will answer important questions about big shifts in the past record of Earth’s climate and ultimately improve our knowledge of future climate.
Oceanographic instruments attached to the heads of Antarctic elephant seals have assisted scientists better understand the role melting ice shelves are having in regulating global ocean temperatures. During their foraging dives the animals collected data and helped researchers to identify a new source of bottom water production in East Antarctica.
The Southern Ocean is still a very big white spot on the knowledge map despite its importance for the world’s climate and as an important habitat for many marine organisms. Now, scientists from Australia and the European Union have joined forces to better understand the role of micronekton in the marine food web, holding the first project meeting of the new partnership in Hobart today. The Mesopelagic Southern Ocean Prey and Predators (MESOPP) project focuses on micronekton, which are small fishes, crustacean, squids and jellies that measure between 1 and 20cm.
New research has found methylmercury -- a potent neurotoxin - in sea ice in the Southern Ocean. The results are the first to show that sea-ice bacteria can change mercury into methylmercury, a more toxic form that can contaminate the marine environment, including fish and birds.