Marine seafloor communities surrounding Antarctica are unique, with soft-bodied suspension-feeding animals dominating the structure, and a rarity of shell crushing predators like sharks or rays. Benthic (seafloor) habitats include shallow muddy shelves, deep water bottoms, dropstones, and areas covered entirely in ice; together these habitats support over 17,000 species. Despite the high biodiversity in the Southern Ocean, how the species interact with each other, and their physical environment, are presently not well understood, but observations of the seafloor enable us to answer these questions. For the modern ocean, we use seabed photographs taken by the Ocean Floor Observation and Bathymetry System (OFOBS), a towed camera system on board the RV Polarstern, Alfred Wegener Institute, to identify the taxonomic diversity and abundance of the benthos in the Weddell Sea, off the Antarctic Peninsula. These datasets allow us to identify key species and spatial structuring of the modern Southern Ocean. We also assess community structure of invertebrates in Antarctica over deep time, by studying the fossil record of Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula, through museum collections at the Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca NY, and the British Antarctic Survey. The Collections cover the latest Cretaceous (~65 million years ago) up to the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, when Antarctica had a greenhouse climate with no ice cover. Unlike modern Antarctic marine communities, the Cretaceous animals contained hard shells, and predators like sharks and crabs were abundant. By quantifying the fossil record and the modern oceans, we can assess how seafloor communities in Antarctica changed over the last 65 million years.
Ming is a PhD student in the Department of Zoology and the British Antarctic Survey. She studies community dynamics and ecosystem interactions between invertebrates on the Antarctic seafloor, both in the modern oceans and in the fossil record.
All staff, students, and senior members are very warmly invited to attend the Pudding Seminars. Talks usually last between 20-25 minutes, followed by time for questions, comments and discussion before we finish at 1.50pm, to allow people to get to 2pm appointments. Please note that coffee and cake will be available from 1 o’clock with the seminar starting promptly at 1.15pm. Details of all our seminars can be found at: https://www.newn.cam.ac.uk/research/pudding-seminars/forthcoming-pudding-seminars/