Life in the ice
28 July 2009
The 20 million square kilometres of sea ice that surrounds Antarctica every winter is made of more than just water. It contains million of microscopic creatures.
The ice isn't solid like the ice cubes you'd find in your freezer. It's more pliable and is full of holes, like a sponge. The holes are filled with brine - concentrated sea water.
And it's this water tiny organisms like viruses, bacteria, microscopic algae and small crustaceans live in.
The earliest Antarctic explorers noticed that seals and penguins tend to congregate around brown areas in the ice. It turns out it's the microscopic life within the ice that gives it a brown hue. Krill feed on these microorganisms and larger creatures in turn feed on the krill.
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Professor David Thomas and his colleague Dr Stathys Papadimitriou of Bangor University analyse samples taken from the ice to see how its chemistry affects the types of creatures living in it.
The pair, with colleagues at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany recently made a surprising discovery. Science writer and broadcaster Richard Hollingham met them to find out more.
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