Life below Ice Shelves - Previews and High-Resolution Downloads
Below you find a set of high-resolution photos from the Polarstern expedition ANT-XXIII/8 for preview and download.
Antarctic Ice Fish
As an adaptation to low temperatures, the Antarctic ice fish has no red blood pigments (haemoglobine) and no red blood cells. Thus the blood is more fluid and the animals save energy otherwise needed to pump blood through their body. Interestingly the brittle stars are overgrown by a yellow sponge.
20070124_Eisfisch_JGutt.jpg (2.8 MB)
Sea Cucumbers (Larsen B)
These deep-sea sea cucumbers are abundant in the Larsen B area. Interestingly they are all heading in the same direction.
"20070116_Seegurke_JGutt.jpg" (2,7 MB)
Corals (Larsen B)
Corals are not only existant in warm tropical waters or along the continental shelf of the Atlantic, but also in the Antarctic. The picture ist taken in the Larsen B area, where pure bed rock exists in unusual great water depths of approx. 120 metres.
20070120_Koralle_JGutt.jpg (2.3 MB)
Sea Fans (Larsen B)
Sea fans are closely related to corals. Although these ones, photographed in the waters of Larsen B, "choose" a large drop stone as a habitat, sea fans can also live on soft substrate.
20070120_Hornkoralle_JGutt.jpg (2.6 MB)
Sea Star (Larsen A)
At a depth of approx. 100m, in close proximity to a glacier, a muddy sediment is inhabited only by a sparse sessile fauna. Here a sea-star is depicted, which has the unusual number of 12 instead of 5 arms, as normal.
20070121_Seestern01_JGutt.jpg (1.8 MB)
Glass Sponge (Larsen A)
Different to Larsen B, Larsen A was probably not permanently covered by ice shelf since the last glaciation period. Here, at Larsen A, the expedition found large glass sponges, which are extremely slow-growing and, as a consequence, must have already existed before the recent disintegration of the ice shelf.
20070122_Glasschwamm_JGutt.jpg (2.2 MB)
Sea Squirts (Larsen A)
Also fast growing animals, as these ascidians, were found at Larsen A. This can be an indication of a first step towards a biodiversity change after the collapse of the ice shelves. The animals in the foreground are colonised by two crustaceans and a brittle star
20070122_Seestern02_JGutt.jpg (2.0 MB)
Seafloor near Seymour and Paulet Island
To understand the characteristics of the sea-floor inhabiting fauna in the formerly ice shelf covered Larsen area and the functioning of this ecosystem, the fauna outside Larsen was invesitaged as a kind of reference. At Seymour and, further North, Paulet islands a high intensity of disturbance by grounding icebergs was found. This phenomenon is indirectly related to the Larsen area. Icebergs, which devastate life at the sea-floor in those areas, calved at the Larsen A, B and C and other large ice shelves in the south.
20070124_EisbergKratzer_JGutt.jpg (2.3 MB)
Life Forms at Seymour/Paulet
Even where a comparably rich life was found near Seymour/Paulet fast growing life forms such as sea squirts (white globes with net-like structure), the bushy sea fans, and the branched sponges were most abundant. The red organism is also a sponge. The yellow sphere is a snail. These fast growing and mobile animals indicate that the sea-floor is regularly disturbed and recolonized.
20070123_Schwaemme01_JGutt.jpg (2.3 MB)
Seymour/Paulet at greater depths
Due to less disturbance the community inhabiting the sea-floor at greater water depths is different and more diverse. Main animal groups are sponges, brittle stars, horn corals, or moss animals.
20070123_Schwaemme02_JGutt.jpg (2.2 MB)