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Press Release - A Decade of Discovery: Census of Marine Life – News Conference

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Issue date: 04 Oct 2010
Number: 11/2010

Event: A Decade of Discovery: Census of Marine Life — News Conference
Venue: Royal Institution, London
Date: Monday 4 October: 12.30 – 16.30

Findings from a major international investigation into the distribution and abundance of Antarctica’s vast marine biodiversity – the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) – will be presented on Monday 4 October at the Royal Institution in London.

An unnamed species (upper), new to science, of Antarctic amphipod crustacean found to be different from related species (below), Epimeria georgiana, by using DNA barcoding.
An unnamed species (upper), new to science, of Antarctic amphipod crustacean found to be different from related species (below), Epimeria georgiana, by using DNA barcoding.

CAML is a major International Polar Year (IPY) initiative and component of the Census of Marine Life (CoML), which will mark the end of its 10-year programme and celebrate the work of more than 2,700 scientists from 80 nations.

Marine Biologists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) were involved in the biggest Antarctic marine survey for the CAML investigation, which saw 19 separate voyages to Antarctic waters to collect marine life samples from over 2,000 locations all around Antarctica.

Huw Griffiths, a BAS Marine Biologist attending the meeting, says,

“CAML has been an extraordinary 5 year programme and has offered us opportunities to collaborate internationally on a big scale. By building strong partnerships with scientists from around the world we have achieved such comprehensive results. For example, working with the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding we identified hundreds of new species. At BAS, with the help of colleagues from New Zealand, we identified a new species of amphipod crustacean (closely related to Epimeria georgiana — see image above), which looks a bit like a shrimp. Natural variation in the shape and colour of this creature makes it difficult to tell if the ones we found were the same type of species, or not. Using DNA barcoding it was possible to identify this animal as a different species that was new to science.

“Understanding what lives in the Southern Ocean has helped us identify a benchmark against which we can measure the effects of climate change. The marine life we study in Antarctica is, naturally, vulnerable to these effects including warming sea surface temperatures, rising ocean acidification and decreasing winter sea ice. But we’ve also seen just how resilient some of these creatures can be, surviving and thriving in some of the most challenging conditions on the planet.”

ENDS

Issued by British Antarctic Survey Press Office:

Heather Martin, Mobile: 07740 822229; Email: hert@bas.ac.uk
Audrey Stevens, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221230; Email: auev@bas.ac.uk

Scientist contact details:

Dr. Huw Griffiths, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221417; Mobile: +44 (0)7734 846 134; Email: hjg@bas.ac.uk
Dr. Katrin Linse, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221631; Mobile: 07880 627 868; Email: kl@bas.ac.uk
Dr. David Barnes, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221613; Email: dkab@bas.ac.uk

N.B. Huw Griffiths will be attending the news conference at the Royal Institution (21 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4BS) on Monday 4 October and will be contactable on his mobile number.

Still images and video footage available at: ftp://ftp.nerc-bas.ac.uk/pub/photo/amphipods/

Images used must be credited to British Antarctic Survey

CAML highlights

  • Coordinated the biggest-ever survey with 19 voyages in Antarctic waters
  • Inventory of over 16,000 marine species with hundreds new to science
  • DNA barcodes for 4,000 species
  • Over 1 million distribution records accessible to all
  • Over 1,000 publications/articles
  • Illustrated field guides and pages in the Encyclopaedia of Life

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council, delivers world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that underpins a productive economy and contributes to a sustainable world. Its numerous national and international collaborations, leadership role in Antarctic affairs and excellent infrastructure help ensure that the UK maintains a world leading position. BAS has over 450 staff and operates five research stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica.