Antarctic Ice Breakups Reveal New Species

Antarctic species photo
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Fast-growing gelatinous sea squirts are among the species that appear to have recently moved into the Larsen zone.

Dense patches of the animals were found in the region that used to be covered by the Larsen B ice shelf. These sea squirts could only have colonized the area, experts say, after the ice shelf collapsed.

Examining the region as soon as possible after the event will help establish a baseline for how global warming is affecting polar biodiversity, the survey team says.

"This is virgin geography," Gauthier Chapelle, a biologist at the Brussels-based International Polar Foundation, said in the media release.

"If we don't find out what this area is like now following the collapse of the ice shelf, and what species are there, we won't have any basis to know in 20 years' time what has changed, and how global warming has altered the marine ecosystem."

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—Photograph © J. Gutt/Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
 
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