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Trawling for live animals

imagePhoto: Live catch sorting, by Jan Strugnell.

By Jan Strugnell, British Antarctic Survey

Before reaching Rothera Research Station (a British Antarctic Surveybase) on the Antarctic Peninsula we ran three short Agassiz trawls to collect live animals from a depth of 200 m for the marine biologists at Rothera. The two wintering marine biologists at Rothera, Alison Masseyand Birgit Obermuller, are studying seasonal physiology of a number ofanimals. They are investigating how much oxygen they use and how thischanges with temperature as well as changes in their seasonal processingof food. We still know very little about how animals cope with the most of strikingly seasonal of environments.

Photo: Live catch sorting, by Jan Strugnell.

Conventional SCUBA diving permits diving to quite shallow depths but the continental shelf around Antarctic is very deep (compared with most of the rest of the world). By collecting live animals from deeper waters and maintaining these in the ambient temperature aquarium at Rothera, the marine biologists get a rare chance to compare animals in the shallows with those from deep at more typical shelf depths. We see urchins, sea cucumbers, brittlestars and sea stars. Each of these animals do not have swim bladders and therefore do not get damaged due to loss of pressure and have reasonable survival prospects. One of the species, the common red sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri, was even the same species as found in the shallows.

From February 19th until April 10th 2008, British scientists are embarking on the British Antarctic Survey

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