Barrier Reef rival: biologist compares Antarctica to a gallery

Dr. Suzanne Lockhart, a biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, has been studying Antarctic marine life for more than three decades after first becoming interested in sea urchins while volunteering at her local museum. Then her journey through the waters of Antarctica began. She saw something that, according to her, most tourists do not notice. About it writes The Guardian.

Lockhart says tourists think of Antarctica and think of penguins, whales and ice amid rugged landscapes. But great beauty lies under the water. Life on the seabed rivals life on the Great Barrier Reef.

The view above the surface of the water is monochrome, but below it you can see many colorful microorganisms and even psychedelic purple corals. As Lockhart says, there is an explosion of colors, the world really looks like an art gallery.

During trips to Antarctica, the biologist was able to discover new species of organisms, including sea cucumbers. “On our last expedition in 2022, we stumbled upon a community of tall, fragile molluscs that has yet to be described and may be years away from being classified,” Lockhart says.

The biologist’s work began back in 2000, when she went on her first expedition and saw with her own eyes how a fishing net pulled large glass sponges, similar to vases, with a diameter of about one meter, onto the ship. They are home to many other organisms, such as star snakes and icefish.

Thanks to the development of technology, it has become possible to study the communities of underwater inhabitants in more detail. During her first dive into Antarctic waters in 2018, Lockhart was surprised because everything at the bottom was not what she had imagined. She says her goal is to learn what’s in the waters and understand which species are at risk. Using this information, it will be possible to make scientific arguments to protect objects. “I’m looking for fragile and long-lived animals that will take a long time to recover if they are damaged by fishing gear – corals and sponges, they are immobile and provide shelter for other organisms,” the biologist explained.

Concluding her talk about ecosystems, Lockhart said she wanted people to think beyond penguins and whales when imagining Antarctica.

Earlier scientists made up more accurate forecast of Antarctic ice melting.

Anna Morozova

Post Comment