American Oceans

Scientists Glued Sensors to Seals Heads and Discovered an Underwater Canyon

an elephant seal in the ocean

Scientists have discovered a massive underwater canyon in Vincennes Bay, Antarctica, thanks to the help of deep-diving seals. Researchers from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science put tracking devices on the seals’ heads to measure depth, temperature, and salt levels, allowing them to map the ocean floor. The canyon, which stretches up to 7,217 feet deep, or about 1.3 miles, may help scientists predict how the Antarctic ice sheet will react to the climate crisis.

The ecologists behind the study have hailed the seals as “heroes” for their contribution to the research. The scientists have even proposed naming the canyon Mirounga-Nuyina, after the scientific name for the elephant-seal species, to honor the seals’ efforts. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment, highlights the important role that these seal scientists play in mapping unknown parts of the ocean and predicting the impact of climate change on the Antarctic region.

Antarctica is home to the Mirounga-Nuyina Canyon, an underwater canyon that is more than 1,000 meters deep. Understanding the ocean floor and the features it contains, such as underwater canyons, is crucial in predicting how Antarctica’s ice sheet might react to global climate change in the future. By mapping these deep troughs and mountain ranges, scientists can gain insights into how water moved in the past and how it may do so in the future.

Scientists believe that water from the Mirounga-Nuyina Canyon could move around the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which might melt it more quickly when it’s warmed by climate change. This knowledge is essential for scientists trying to measure ice-sheet melt rates, as it helps them identify the thinner points of the Antarctic ice sheets that are more at risk of melting.

The seafloor canyons and other underwater formations also give scientists an idea of the thinner points of the Antarctic ice sheets, cluing them into what is more at risk of melting. This information helps scientists predict how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet may have responded to past change and how it may do so in the future.

The seafloor maps reveal that the Mirounga-Nuyina Canyon is one of the deepest underwater canyons in the world, and it is also one of the largest. The canyon is located on the East Antarctic continental shelf, and its depth and salinity make it a unique feature of the Antarctic Ocean.

Performing marine research in Antarctica can be complicated by intense weather and extreme temperatures, but the data collected from the seafloor canyons and other underwater features is invaluable for climate research. By studying these underwater features, scientists can gain a better understanding of the physics of ice-sheet melting and how it may contribute to global climate change.

To study the features of the Antarctic Ocean, researchers from the seal study came up with the idea of attaching sensors to the heads of deep-diving seals. The researchers tagged 50 Weddell seals and 215 southern elephant seals with devices that could track their movements and map the features of the ocean. The trackers were attached to the seals’ heads using adhesive, which was not harmful to the animals as they shed their hair annually.

Clive McMahon, a researcher from the IMOS Animal Tagging program, explained that the trackers were adhered to the fur on the seals’ heads, which shed annually. This meant that the seals did not experience any pain during the process. The use of the deep-diving animals as a means of collecting data was considered a cheaper and more effective method than using ships that could withstand the extreme temperatures and pressure deep underwater. By attaching the sensors to the animals, researchers were able to track their movements and collect data on the features of the Antarctic Ocean.

The seals were able to perform their duty without any pain, and the data collected from the GPS trackers and other sensors allowed researchers to gain insights into the behavior of deep-diving seals and other marine mammals. This method of data collection has proven to be a valuable tool for studying the ocean and its inhabitants, and it has opened up new avenues for researchers to explore the mysteries of the deep.

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