It is only six centimetres long, but it plays a major role in the Antarctic ecosystem: the small crustacean Euphausia superba (Antarctic krill). It's one of the world's most abundant species and the central diet of a number of animals in the Southern Ocean. For a long time, scientists have been puzzled why the size of krill stocks fluctuates so widely. In a new study headed by Prof. Bernd Blasius and Prof. Bettina Meyer, a group of scientists from the University of Oldenburg's Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) and the Bremerhaven-based Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have shown that the competition for food within the population is responsible for the variability.
Electronic tags with ‘whale cams’ deployed on humpback whales in Antarctica have revealed the secret feeding habits of the ocean giants. The small camera tags were placed on the backs of humpback whales by Australian and United States scientists working off the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Gerlache Strait.
Gentoo penguins are tough generalists and are capable to withstand the harsh Antarctic climate. However, the tremendous force of volcanic eruptions, as had happened on Deception Island, had put colonies close to extinction several times over the last 7,000 years. This is the result of a study conducted by researchers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which they published recently in Nature Communications.
Scientists have successfully deployed miniature GPS loggers on threatened black browed albatross on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island to find out more about the foraging habits of the birds. Approximately 40 pairs of black browed albatross breed on the steep slopes of the remote Island, and this summer researchers attached five loggers to the breeding birds.
Scientists on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island have used satellite tags to track the foraging behaviour of a threatened sea-bird, the grey petrel, for the first time. The grey petrel weighs one kilogram and is a burrowing seabird which breeds on Macquarie Island, half way between Australia and Antarctica.
With increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, levels are also increasing in the oceans, leading to ocean acidification. In recent years environmental scientists have been dedicating much effort to predict the fate of marine calcifiers, organisms which build their shells from calcium, under future ocean acidification scenarios. A team of European researchers used a range of new technologies to look at the molecules and cells involved in shell production of the Antarctic clam (Laternula elliptica). Their results identified seven proteins from the lustrous mother of pearl shell layer, including two which were totally unique to this species.
Climate has influenced the distribution patterns of Adélie penguins across Antarctica for millions of years. The geologic record tells us that as glaciers expanded and covered Adélie breeding habitats with ice, penguin colonies were abandoned. When the glaciers melted during warming periods, this warming positively affected the Adélie penguins, allowing them to return to their rocky breeding grounds. But now, University of Delaware scientists and colleagues report that this beneficial warming may have reached its tipping point.
Blue whales are the largest animals that have ever lived on Earth. During the first half of the 20th century, this iconic species suffered heavy losses in the Antarctic waters due to whaling. Since then, numbers have been slowly rising but it is unclear how many blue whales still roam the Southern Ocean. An Australian research team has now presented new genetic data and was able to identify three genetically distinct populations of these critically endangered giants.
A new technique photogrammetry is used to determine the weight of nursing seal mothers. This research is part of an ongoing project which studies the Weddell seal population in McMurdo Sound.
Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute together with international colleagues could analyse the distribution and behaviour of larval and juvenile krill beneath wintery Antarctic sea ice for the first time. In order to decrypt the life cycle of this ecologically important species 51 scientists and technicians as well as 44 crewmembers sailed the Weddell Sea for 63 days.