A potentially new species of shrimplike crustacean in the genus Epimeria
was found near Elephant Island in Antarctica, scientists announced on Sunday.
The 1-inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) creature was among nearly a thousand species collected during the first biological survey of a 3,860-square-mile (10,000-square-kilometer) section of the sea that was once covered by thick polar ice.
A 500-billion-ton ice shelf known as Larsen B disintegrated into the Weddell Sea in 2002seven years after the nearby Larsen A ice shelf broke apart (see an interactive map of Antarctica
). Experts believe global warming triggered both events.
"The breakup of these ice shelves opened up huge, near pristine portions of the ocean floor, sealed off from above for at least 5,000 yearsand possibly up to 12,000 years in the case of Larsen B," Julian Gutt, a marine ecologist at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and chief expedition scientist, said in a media release.
"The results of our efforts," Gutt added, "will advance our ability to predict the future of our biosphere in a changing environment."
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Photograph ) C. d'Udekem d'Acoz/Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research