Covered in ice for much of the year, and with seawater temperatures below zero, who would guess that beneath the surface the Ross Sea is a world teeming with life?
The Ross Sea seafloor is home to some of the most diverse invertebrate communities in the Southern Ocean. In stark contrast to the animals living above the ice, the sea floor creatures are often colourful and definitely unique. More than half of Antarctic marine species cannot be found anywhere else. They generally grow slowly, are often very large, and can also live for a long time.
These spectacular seafloor animals are very well adapted to life in this cold, often dark, and unique environment, where conditions have not changed for millions of years, and where they have evolved in isolation.
Because of the stable and narrow range of conditions they experience in their habitats now, there is concern about how these animals will survive in a rapidly changing ocean. A great example is how they might cope with temperatures warming above those they currently live in, and the modifications that this will cause to their wider ecosystem. Yet a warming ocean may also enable some organisms to expand their distributions and the introduction of new species may also bring challenges to these isolated communities.