Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Antarctic octopus study shows West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have collapsed 200,000 years ago

Date:
May 9, 2012
Source:
University of Liverpool
Summary:
Scientists have found that genetic information on the Antarctic octopus supports studies indicating that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could have collapsed during its history, possibly as recently as 200,000 years ago.

The Antarctic octopus does not like to travel. Antarctic octopuses 10,000km apart are “genetically similar.”
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Liverpool

Scientists at the University have found that genetic information on the Antarctic octopus supports studies indicating that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could have collapsed during its history, possibly as recently as 200,000 years ago.

Genes from more than 450 Turquet's octopuses, collected from species in the Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica, were analysed to shed new light on how animals disperse across the varied ocean landscape. Adult Turquet's octopuses tend to live in one place and only move to escape predators, leading scientists to believe that creatures from areas either side of Antarctica would be genetically different.

The team from Liverpool, in collaboration with National University of Ireland Galway, and La Trobe University, Australia, however, found that the octopuses from Ross and Weddell Seas, which are now separated by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, are genetically almost identical, suggesting that these two regions may have once been connected. Findings may contribute to recent studies demonstrating the potential impact that increasing global temperatures could have on the changing Antarctica environment.

Dr Phill Watts, from the University's Institute of Integrative Biology, explains: "We looked at information gathered by the Census of Antarctic Marine Life, which allowed us to examine genetic data on a scale that had not been done before in this area of the world. We expected to find a marked difference between Turguet's octopuses living in different regions of the ocean, particularly between areas that are currently separated by approximately 10,000km of sea. These creatures don't like to travel and so breeding between the populations in the Ross and Weddell Seas would have been highly unusual.

"We found, however, that they were genetically similar, suggesting that at some point in their past these populations would have been in contact with each other, perhaps at a time when the oceans were connected and not separated by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. These findings agree with climate models indicating repeated periods in history when the climate was warmer, which would have released water from the ice and increased the sea levels, allowing dispersal of creatures between the Ross and Weddell Seas."

Data on octopuses from other parts of Antarctica, not separated by this particular ice sheet, support the theory that the creatures are genetically different. They found that the depth of the ocean and its currents limited the movement of the octopus in certain areas, as would have been expected for those living on either side of the West Antarctic Ice sheet. This added further evidence that at some point in recent history this particular ice sheet might have collapsed.

The research is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the collaborative scheme for systematic research (CoSyst). It is published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

Dr Louise Allcock, from the National University of Ireland, Galway, added: "A previous study has shown evidence that the Ross and Weddell Seas could have been connected. We wanted to investigate whether there was any genetic information that could tell us what the past environment could have been like, and this octopus species, with its large populations around the region and limited movements, was an ideal species to use.

"The fact that we found more similarities than we did differences supports the theory that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could have collapsed in the past. It also provides further evidence that scientists should continue to raise awareness about the impact of climate change on Antarctica today."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. M. Strugnell, P. C. Watts, P. J. Smith, A. L. Allcock. Persistent genetic signatures of historic climatic events in an Antarctic octopus. Molecular Ecology, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05572.x

Cite This Page:

University of Liverpool. "Antarctic octopus study shows West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have collapsed 200,000 years ago." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509111453.htm>.
University of Liverpool. (2012, May 9). Antarctic octopus study shows West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have collapsed 200,000 years ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509111453.htm
University of Liverpool. "Antarctic octopus study shows West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have collapsed 200,000 years ago." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509111453.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins