On the Ukrainian research ship “Noosphere“, which is currently in the Antarctica, an international biological study has begun. Polish and Ukrainian scientists collected samples of marine life from the bottom of the Southern Ocean.

Selection of marine organisms

A special bottom trawl was used to carry out the work. The study took place in Penola Strait (near the Akademik Vernadsky station) at three different depths.

Different marine organisms were found on each of them:

  • At a depth of 250 meters, sponges, large starfish, and holothuria dominated. They are also called sea cucumbers because of their similar shape.
  • 200 m – most often we found medium-sized species of starfish, snails, large polychaetes and ophiuchus. The latter are called snake-tails because of their peculiar way of moving: when they crawl along the bottom, their rays wriggle like snakes.
  • 120 м. Various species of needleworms and colonies of sedentary species of bryozoans were collected here.

Currently, the samples of organisms are stored on the ship in special freezers.

After delivery to the laboratory on the “big land”, scientists will isolate and sequence the genetic code of the selected organisms and study how much metal is present in their mineral skeletons.

Українські вчені почали дослідження дивних морських істот

Why is it important?

One of the most advanced methods of studying marine ecosystems is environmental DNA analysis. This method can identify tens or hundreds of species of living organisms in a single water sample using specific molecular markers. This saves time and money, and causes much less environmental damage compared to traditional research methods that require the mandatory capture of living creatures.

However, for this method to work, it is first necessary to collect a database of DNA marker sequences of local species (barcodes), which will play a similar role in further research as a fingerprint database for forensic scientists.

The first “catch” of Noosphere is intended to develop the Antarctic fauna barcode database.

Польські та українські вчені відібрали зразки морської фауни з дна Південного океану

Metal content

Scientists are going to determine the metal content in animal skeletons. The fact is that climate change leads to an increase in the temperature of seawater and its oxidation (lowering the pH value).

In more acidic and warmer water, the physiology of animals changes, in particular, they begin to absorb metals from the water much more intensively and deposit them in skeletal elements such as bones, shells, carapaces, etc.

The skeleton contaminated with metals becomes weaker. Water oxidation also has a negative impact on animal shells made of calcium carbonate, as it dissolves in an acidic environment. Together with the accumulation of metals, this makes the skeletal support of marine life fragile and vulnerable.

Therefore, thanks to this research, scientists will be able to assess the sensitivity/resilience of aquatic invertebrates to changes in the chemical composition of the Southern Ocean and identify groups that are primarily threatened by the effects of climate change in the Antarctic.

Cooperation

The current joint sampling of benthic marine fauna is the beginning of a new area of scientific cooperation between Ukraine and Poland. It is expected to develop into a long-term joint project funded by the National Science Center of the Republic of Poland.

On the Polish side, the research is being conducted by members of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Gdańsk.

Photo: Anna Iglikowska, Denis Matyushenko

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