Polar Regions Not So Bare – Rich in Species

February 17, 2009 / No Comments

A marine census has documented 7,500 species in the Antarctic and 5,500 in the Arctic. Several hundred species are even new to science.

“The textbooks have said there is less diversity at the poles than the tropics, but we found astonishing richness of marine life in the Antarctic and Arctic oceans,” says a researcher from the Australian Antarctic Division. “We are rewriting the textbooks.”

polar bear jump1 Polar Regions Not So Bare   Rich in Species

Researchers were surprised to discover dozens of species common to both polar seas. Even they are separated by nearly 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers), they are the same on the top and bottom of the planet. Now, how’d that happen?

The new discoveries were primarily simpler life – invertebrates. “Researchers found sea spider species as big as a human hand, and tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans in the Arctic basin that live at a depth of 9,850 feet (3,000 meters).”

The Census of Marine Life is part of an international effort to catalog all life in the oceans. The census has been going on for a decade and is scheduled for final publication in 2010.

The survey includes over 500 polar researchers from 25 countries. It took place during International Polar Year which ran in 2007-2008. International polar year has come and gone and I missed it.

Researchers in the Antarctic endured 48-foot (16-meter) waves. Arctic workers had to be protected from from polar bears.

As many as 235 species were found in both polar seas. These include five whale species, six sea birds and nearly 100 species of crustaceans.

“We think of the Arctic and Antarctic as similar habitats but they are separated by great distances. So finding species at both ends of the Earth — some of which don’t have a known connection in between — raises a whole bunch of evolutionary questions,” he said.

Yeah, I’ll bet there are a bunch of questions.

Ask me, I already know the answer.