Elephant seals discover bottom water

Japanese and Australian researchers deployed elephant seals to solve a Southern Ocean mystery in 2013.

Elephant seal solves an ocean mystery. Credit: Chris Oosthuizen
Elephant seal solves an ocean mystery. Credit: Chris Oosthuizen

Southern elephant seals fitted with satellite tags foraged on the continental shelf down to 1,800 metres and revealed a layer of dense cold water—so called Antarctic bottom water—flowing out into the deep ocean.

“These seals are fantastic oceanographers,” says Tim Moltmann, Director of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System. “They dive and explore under the Antarctic ice sheets reaching places that we just can’t get to.”

The discovery filled an important gap in our understanding of how the Southern Ocean affects global climate.

For more information: Science in Public, www.scienceinpublic.com.au/stories/japan

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