Seals help unlock ocean secrets

Date: 1/10/2008

Sensors developed by the University of St Andrews, Scotland, have been employed by Antarctic researchers to collect otherwise inaccessible information about the climate. The small data logging transmitters have been attached to the heads of elephant seals. Professor Mike Fedak from the University’s Gatty Marine Laboratory said, ‘The Southern Ocean is a hotspot for climate research because its circulation is critical to understanding the earth’s climate and its huge ice sheet is sensitive to climate change.’ Southern elephant seals are wide-ranging predators that roam all over the Southern Ocean, even under the sea ice in the wintertime. This new data enabled researchers to follow the yearly rise-and-fall cycle of sea ice production, and should help scientists refine computer models of the Southern Ocean circulation. The species can dive as deep as two kilometres in search of food.

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