MEPS 309:297-300 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps309297

Seal-mounted cameras detect invertebrate fauna on underside of Antarctic ice shelf

Yuuki Watanabe1,*, Horst Bornemann2, Nikolai Liebsch3, Joachim Plötz2, Katsufumi Sato4,5, Yasuhiko Naito4, Nobuyuki Miyazaki1

1Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, 1-15-1 Minamidai, Nakano, Tokyo 164-8639, Japan
2Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Postfach 120161, 27515 Bremerhaven, Germany
3Institut für Meereskunde, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
4National Institute of Polar Research, 1-9-10 Kaga, Itabashi, Tokyo 173-8515, Japan
5Present address: International Coastal Research Center, Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, 2-106-1 Akahama, Otsuchi, Iwate 028-1102, Japan

ABSTRACT: While modern sampling techniques, such as autonomous underwater vehicles, are increasing our knowledge of the fauna beneath Antarctic sea ice of only a few meters in depth, greater sampling difficulties mean that little is known about the marine life underneath Antarctic ice shelves over 100 m thick. In this study, we present underwater images showing the underside of an Antarctic ice shelf covered by aggregated invertebrate communities, most likely cnidarians and isopods. These images, taken at an average depth of 145 m, were obtained with a digital still camera system attached to Weddell seals Leptonychotes weddellii foraging just beneath the ice shelf. Our observations indicate that, similar to the sea floor, ice shelves serve as an important habitat for a remarkable amount of marine invertebrate fauna in Antarctica.

KEY WORDS: Ice shelf · Fauna · Antarctica · Camera · Diving · Weddell seal · Leptonychotes weddellii

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