Polish and Ukrainian scientists caught the inhabitants of the Antarctic seabed for the first time

Oleksandra Amru

A new international study has started on the Ukrainian scientific research icebreaker "Noosphere" in the Antarctic — Polish and Ukrainian scientists in cooperation for the first time collected samples of marine fauna from the bottom of the Southern Ocean.

This was reported in the National Antarctic Scientific Center.

A special bottom trawl was used for the work. The research took place in the area of the Ukrainian Antarctic station "Akademik Vernadskyi", in the Penola Strait, at three different depths.

At a depth of 250 meters, sponges, large starfish and holothurians (they are also called sea cucumbers — because of the similarity in shape) prevailed.

At a depth of 200 meters, medium-sized species of starfish, snails, large polychaete worms and ophiuras (also called "snaketails" because of the peculiar way they move: when they crawl along the bottom, their rays twist like snakes) were the most common.

At a depth of 120 meters, the researchers collected various species of echinoderms and colonies of sedentary moss species.

Currently, the samples are stored in special freezers on the ship. When they are delivered to the laboratory, scientists will isolate and read the genetic code of these organisms, analyze the amount of metal in their mineral skeletons.

These samples will help researchers to further study the marine ecosystem of the Southern Ocean. First, scientists will collect a database of DNA marker sequences of local species — in further research, it will play the same role as a forensics fingerprint database.

Thanks to the DNA samples of these species, scientists will be able to identify dozens and hundreds of species of living organisms in just one sample of ocean water. This is the newest method that saves time and money, and causes much less damage to the environment compared to traditional research methods.

Scientists will test how much metal is in the mineral skeletons of animals to assess the sensitivity and resilience of aquatic invertebrates to changes in the chemistry of the Southern Ocean. And also identify the groups that are the first to be threatened by the consequences of climate change in the Antarctic.

The fact is that climate change leads to an increase in the temperature of sea water and its oxidation, that is, a decrease in the pH indicator. In more acidic and warmer water, the physiology of animals also changes, in particular, they begin to absorb metals much more intensively from the water and deposit them in skeletal elements — bones, shells, shells, etc. The metal-contaminated skeleton weakens.

Water oxidation also has a negative effect on animal shells, which are formed from calcium carbonate, because it dissolves in an acidic environment. Together with the accumulation of metals, this makes the skeletal support of marine life fragile and vulnerable.