Researchers have been exploring Antarctica for decades. However, the largely uninhabited, frozen continent still holds countless mysteries. There are countless theories as to what could be hidden in the ice. Some believe that the continent holds UFO evidence. Others believe that there is a wealth of undiscovered life hidden on the frigid landmass and in its waters. Recently, researchers made a shocking discovery on Antarctica’s seabed.
The discovery came as researchers with Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research were skimming Antarctica’s seabed. According to The Guardian, they were collecting routine data 1.5-2.5 meters above the floor of the Wendell Sea in southern Antarctica. They didn’t expect to see anything out of the ordinary. However, they found the largest colony of Jonah’s icefish in history.
Autun Purser was part of the team in Antarctica and found the discovery shocking. Purser said, “We expected to see the normal Antarctic seafloor [but] during the first four hours of our dive, we saw nothing but fish nests.” In total, the crew estimates that they discovered sixty million active icefish nests. Before this discovery, the largest known colony contained sixty nests. This colony stretches for more than 150 miles. Researchers estimate that it is one-third the size of London.
More About the Shocking Icefish Discovery in Antarctica
The team made the discovery while studying the seafloor off of Antarctica using a bathymetry system. This amounts to a large camera towed behind a boat. The camera snaps photos, captures videos, and takes measurements.
This portion of the Wendell Sea is the site of upwelling. This is what drew researchers to the area. Upwelling is a process in which sea currents and wind bring water from the ocean floor to the surface. This causes the water to be about 2C warmer than the surrounding water. Now, the biologists believe that the upwelling led to the formation of the massive ice fish colony. Purser thinks that the fish use this warmer water as a homing beacon. “When they feel like reproducing, they look for this warmer water and reproduce there,” he said.
Additionally, this shocking discovery is changing the way biologists look at the ecosystem of Antarctica. Now, they believe that the icefish heavily influence the ecosystem. “It’s extremely likely that seals are eating these fish nests. If you lost the fish nests, maybe you would lose the seals. It’s such a huge amount of food,” Purser said. He went on to add that the massive colony “…must have a knock-on effect for the Wendell Seas ecosystem at least, and potentially elsewhere in the Antarctic waters.”
This discovery also shows researchers just how little they know about Antarctica and deep-sea ecosystems in general.