Scientists have discovered a huge breeding colony of icefish in Antarctica’s southern Weddell Sea.
big picture: Clusters of 60 icefish nests have been observed before, but researchers have now found an estimated 60 million active nests, believed to be the largest ever observed.
Description: Scientists were pulling up a camera on the back of their research vessel to survey the ocean floor early last year when they made the surprising discovery.
- “We found fish nest after fish nest for four hours,” says Autun Perser, a deep-sea ecologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany. “Nothing but a fish nest.”
- Researchers estimate that the colony is spread over 240 square kilometers (about 93 sq mi). Reported in the magazine current biology,
- Most of the nests had a male icefish guarding the eggs.
Why this matters: Researchers think that icefish (neopagatopsis aynah, The warm water in the area can be used to navigate the breeding colony.
- Purser says it’s likely that icefish are an important food source for the Weddell seals that populate the sea ice and are known to dive in the area.
What will happen next: Scientists released cameras into the water to photograph the nests four times every day for the next three years.
- They are interested in obtaining more details about the nests – including whether the eggs hatch at the same time and if the nests change location – to understand how the giant colony provides nutrients to the unique ecosystem. provides.
- “The deep ocean and the atmosphere under the ice are not barren for life,” Purser says. The colony is “a vast hidden ecosystem and must support and influence neighboring ecosystems.”