Fish under Antarctic ice discovery

This video is called Antarctic Fish.

From Smart News blog in the USA today:

Fish Live Under Antarctica’s Ice Shelf, Where It Seems They Shouldn’t Survive

Biologists expected the seafloor under a glacier to be nearly barren, until life swam into view

By Marissa Fessenden


This month, a National Science Foundation-funded expedition began drilling through the Whillans Ice Stream, a glacier that flows from the West Antarctic Ice Shelf to the Ross Ice Shelf. The team wanted to see how the ice was faring and responding to climate change, so they drilled to the glacier’s grounding zone — where it leaves bedrock and meets the sea.

At that zone, the sea bottom looks bare and “rocky, like a lunar surface,” glacial geologist Ross Powell told Douglas Fox for Scientific American. They sent a little underwater vehicle called Deep-SCINI down the borehole to investigate. Its cameras would capture images of the rocks and sediment down on the sea floor. The researchers took sediment cores and seawater samples, which betrayed only the presence of a few microbes — no sign of crustaceans or other life normally found at the bottom of the sea.

This wasn’t a surprise: Under 2,428 feet of ice and 528 miles from the edge of the ice shelf, the site is far from any hint of sunlight, the energy source that typically powers marine food webs. So the next thing they found was shocking.

The ROV had paused while technicians adjusted some controls (it was the bot’s maiden voyage) when they saw something through the down-looking camera. Fox writes:

A graceful, undulating shadow glided across its view, tapered front to back like an exclamation point—the shadow cast by a bulb-eyed fish. Then people saw the creature casting that shadow: bluish-brownish-pinkish, as long as a butter knife, its internal organs showing through its translucent body.

It was a fish. About 20 to 30 fish visited the ROV that day, perhaps attracted to light. And that wasn’t all. Two other kinds of fish, shrimp-like crustaceans and few other invertebrates were also spotted.

“I’ve worked in this area for my whole career,” Ross says. “You get the picture of these areas having very little food, being desolate, not supporting much life.”

The food web down there is still unknown. “Food is in short supply and any energy gained is hard-won,” says Brent Christner, a microbiologist from Louisiana State University. “This is a tough place to live.” Without sunlight, the scant microbes there might be relying on chemical energy — minerals delivered by the moving ice above, currents traveling long distances or seeping up from sediments. “The lack of mud dwellers might indicate that animals living this far under the ice shelf must be mobile enough to follow intermittent food sources from place to place,” writes Fox.

Answering where food comes from is just the beginning of a long list of questions for this chilly, dark underwater community. But for now, the discovery proves yet again that life can eek out in the most remote, unexpected places.

Japanese whaling stops, temporarily

This video is called Close Encounter with Minke Whale in Antarctica.

From Wildlife Extra:

Reduced Japanese whaling fleet departs to conduct scientific studies

A smaller than usual Japanese whaling fleet recently left port in Shimonoseki to carry out research in the Antarctic – but no whales will be harpooned after the World Court ruled last year that Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling in the Southern Ocean was illegal.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency announced that a reduced number of boats will instead head to the Antarctic to carry out sighting surveys, biopsy work and photo identification of whales led by the country’s Institute of Cetacean Research.

Two catcher boats, without their harpoons, departed first and will be joined by Japan’s factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, which sets off on 16 January, for the non-lethal research which is expected to last until 28 March.

An International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in March 2014 ensured that for the first season in more than a century, whales in the Southern hemisphere were not be hunted for commercial purposes.

However, despite its initial vow to abide by the ICJ decision, and current moves to carry out non-lethal research, in November last year the Japanese government revealed details of a new proposal, called NEWREP-A, which would see 333 minke whales harpooned in the name of science in the Southern Ocean from later this year. Conservation organisations have urged Japan to withdraw this proposal.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Programme Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, says: “While we congratulate Japan on its shift towards humane, non-lethal research on whales and welcome the fact that no whales will be slaughtered in the Southern Ocean this season, sadly Japan has not discarded its harpoons for good.

“Japan’s new whaling plan fails utterly to meet the standard established by the World Court or to live up to the earlier rhetoric of Japanese officials. Japan needs to acknowledge that its cruel and unnecessary whaling must stop once and for all.”

Japan’s new whaling plans are set to be examined by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) when it meets in San Diego in the US in May. The IWC strongly backed the ICJ ruling when member countries met in Slovenia in September.

Antarctic gentoo penguins, video

The Cornell Lab of Ornithologyy in the USA writes about this 4 December 2014 video:

December is just about the warmest time of year for a Gentoo Penguin, and time for them to get busy raising chicks amid the rock and ice of Antarctica and its islands. Watch this video and enjoy a penguin‘s eye view of a breeding colony on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Stay Tuned: After the holidays, join us for two special live-streamed video conversations with scientists at a penguin colony in Antarctica. They’re scheduled for Jan. 29 and Feb. 3 (weather depending). Bookmark this link, and we’ll have more details for you in January.

Antarctic colossal squid examined in New Zealand

This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Scientists latch on to colossal squid

Huge specimen caught in Antarctic waters by New Zealand fishing crew is one of few ever examined

16 September 2014

The live stream begins at 06:57: here.

Te Papa has a new colossal squid!

Watch live online as specialists in squid biology from Te Papa and Auckland University of Technology undertake research on this rare find. This colossal squid and the specimen already on display at Te Papa are the only two of their kind caught intact – ever! Large colossal squid specimens in good condition are rarely available to scientists, so this latest example has caused great excitement.

Ask our squid scientists:

Email with your questions for our squid scientists, or add them in the comments area below. We’ll answer them during the live show.

For regular updates and the latest on the colossal squid, follow:

Colossal squid blogs:­l-squid

See also here.

Giant fossil penguin discovery in Antarctic

This video says about itself:

5 October 2010

Scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of a five-foot-tall (150-centimeter-tall) penguin in present-day Peru. The 36-million-year-old fossil sheds light on bird evolution, according to National Geographic grantee Julia Clarke. Video produced by the University of Texas at Austin.

From New Scientist:

Extinct mega penguin was tallest and heaviest ever

01 August 2014 by Jeff Hecht

Forget emperor penguins, say hello to the colossus penguin. Newly unearthed fossils have revealed that Antarctica was once home to the biggest species of penguin ever discovered. It was 2 metres long and weighed a hefty 115 kilograms.

Palaeeudyptes klekowskii lived 37 to 40 million years ago. This was “a wonderful time for penguins, when 10 to 14 species lived together along the Antarctic coast”, says Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche of the La Plata Museum in Argentina.

She has been excavating fossil deposits on Seymour Island, off the Antarctic peninsula. This was a warmer region 40 million years ago, with a climate like that of present-day Tierra del Fuego, the islands at the southern tip of South America.

The site has yielded thousands of penguin bones. Earlier this year, Acosta Hospitaleche reported the most complete P. klekowskii skeleton yet, although it contained only about a dozen bones, mostly from the wings and feet (Geobios, DOI: 10.1016/j.geobios.2014.03.003).

Now she has uncovered two bigger bones. One is part of a wing, and the other is a tarsometatarsus, formed by the fusion of ankle and foot bones. The tarsometatarsus measures a record 9.1 centimetres. Based on the relative sizes of bones in penguin skeletons, Acosta Hospitaleche estimates P. klekowskii was 2.01 meters long from beak tip to toes.

Its height will have been somewhat less than its length owing to the way penguins stand. But it was nevertheless larger than any known penguin.

Fossil and present penguins

Emperor penguins can weigh 46 kilograms and reach lengths of 1.36 metres, 0.2 metres above their standing height. Another extinct penguin used to hold the height record, at around 1.5 metres tall.

P. klekowskii‘s tarsometatarsus “is the longest foot bone I’ve ever seen. This is definitely a big penguin,” says Dan Ksepka at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. However, he cautions that the estimate of its length is uncertain because giant penguins had skeletons “very differently proportioned than living penguins”.

Larger penguins can dive deeper and stay underwater longer than smaller ones. A giant like P. klekowski could have stayed down for 40 minutes, giving it more time to hunt fish, says Acosta Hospitaleche.

Journal reference: Comptes Rendus Palevol, DOI: 10.1016/j.crpv.2014.03.008

Adélie penguins monitored by camera

This video is called Adélie Penguins of Antarctica.

From Wildlife Extra:

Remote camera monitors penguins in remote Antarctic

We in the west are used to security cameras tracking our ever move but for a colony of penguins in the Antarctic it is a whole new experience.

Two prototype satellite-enabled cameras, developed by Cambridge Consultants and ZSL, were given to the project Penguins Lifelines, run by Tom Hart, which researches the threats to Antarctic penguins.

Both cameras are located on the Yalour Islands to study the Near Threatened Adélie penguins, and despite the frosty frigid conditions they … still send back up to eight images a day.

The cameras are designed to work in the most remote areas on earth and run on a single long-life battery, and use infra-red LED flash lighting to work at night as well as during the day.

Penguins are declining globally and these cameras could help scientists understand exactly why and help conserve those left. Currently penguin research relies on visiting remote colonies every year, which means only a small proportion of colonies are monitored.

“The unique thing about this system is the fact we can change the configuration of the system remotely using the Iridium satellites“, said Marion Campbell, from Cambridge Consultants. “We don’t need to be there physically, in order to, for adjust the timing delay between the trigger and the moment when the actual picture is taken”

For more information on the project click HERE.

The link at Wildlife Extra did not work; I have replaced it here with a working one.

Help Scientists By Marking Penguins In Pictures: here.

Whale-watching in Australia, war in the Falklands

This video from Australia is called Migaloo the White Whale Encounter.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

How to start a war and win an election

Friday 4th July 2014

Whale-watching in Australia leads PETER FROST to a forgotten story of a deception that led to the Falkland’s war

A year or so ago Ann and I spent time in Australia driving down the east coast in a motor-home. Highlight of the trip was watching the many whales from the headlands and beaches.

It was there we heard tales of a pure white humpback whale. It was a hard story to swallow, but the rumours of this great white whale had gone up and down the coast for over 25 years.

Now, it seems, the stories are proved true. Migaloo — his aboriginal name means White Fella — has been spotted and photographed close to Sydney and this has enabled whale scientists to discover a lot more about this amazing animal.

Migaloo is one of the few albino humpbacks in the world. Sadly as an albino he is more susceptible to UV damage in the bright Australian sunshine than darker humpbacks.

Indeed Migaloo watchers are worried about the 28-year-old whale’s health. Healthy humpbacks can live for 50 years but yellow and red patches on Migaloo’s skin suggest he may have skin disease or even cancer.

Humpbacks do bump into each other at play or when jostling for position when mating and it may be this that has caused the whale’s skin damage.

Meanwhile Migaloo is being studied and looked after. Watercraft are not allowed within 500 metres, aircraft no closer than 2,000 feet.

Watching these monarchs of the ocean prompted us to take a look at the history of British and Australian whaling.

We visited the old whaling station ports of Ballina and Byron Bay to learn a little about this huge, if cruel, industry.

The need for food fats in post-war Europe was critical. In the 1950s and 1960s Australia built a huge fleet of ex-wartime wooden Fairmile motor torpedo boats to hunt and kill thousands of whales. The whale oil was almost entirely used for the British margarine trade.

Scottish “Ten pound Pom” Harry Robertson recorded this hard life in song and story and on an amazing website brings this history alive —

The Australian whaling fleet also ventured into Antarctic waters as competitors to the vast Scottish whaling company Christian Salvesen which built several hugely profitable whaling stations in the southern oceans — the first in the Falklands in 1907 and then another on the island of South Georgia. Their station at Leith Harbour, South Georgia, was named after the company’s home port in Scotland.

It was to South Georgia that Constantino Davidoff — an Argentinian scrap dealer — came in March 1982. He had a £180,000 contract from Christian Salvesen to dismantle the company’s derelict whaling station.

At the end of 1981 Davidoff had sought approval from the British ambassador in Buenos Aires. He had also spoken to the Falkland Island authorities.

Margaret Thatcher in London thought this might make a great excuse to flex her muscles in the South Atlantic. She declared the scrap metal workers were the advance party of an Argentinian invasion of South Georgia and told the press that the scrap-men had planted the Argentinian flag and were singing the Argentinian national anthem.

Thatcher despatched marines from the Falkland Islands and 39 scrap metal workers were detained. Argentina sent its troops to rescue them and landed in the Falkland Islands.

Two previously friendly countries were at war over a scrap of unwanted land 8,000 miles from London and 900 people would die before Argentina surrendered on June 14 1982.

Thatcher and the Tories would storm home in the 1983 general election and that, of course, was the whole point of the exercise.

In an ultimate irony, British forces contracted Argentinian scrap dealers to clear away the post-war debris of the many Falkland battles.

Australia: Whaling history on the NSW South Coast – some quick facts: here.