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Explorers marvel at 'Brittlestar City' on seamount in powerful current swirling around Antarctica
Date:5/18/2008

Census of Marine Life-affiliated scientists, plumbing the secrets of a vast underwater mountain range south of New Zealand, captured the first images of a novel Brittlestar City established against daunting odds on the peak of a seamount an underwater summit taller than the worlds tallest building.

Its cramped starfish-like inhabitants, tens of millions living arm tip to arm tip, owe their success to the seamounts shape and to the swirling circumpolar current flowing over and around it at roughly four kilometers per hour. It allows Brittlestar Citys underwater denizens to capture passing food simply by raising their arms, and it sweeps away fish and other hovering would-be predators.

Discovery of this marine metropolis, announced today along with important new insights into seamount geology and physics, highlighted a month-long April expedition to survey the Macquarie Ridge aboard the Research Vessel Tangaroa of New Zealands National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, host of the Census of Marine Life seamount programme, CenSeam. The voyage was largely funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Formed at least 12.5 million years ago, Macquarie Ridge stretches 1,400 km south from New Zealand to just above the Antarctic Circle. A multi-disciplinary scientific team from New Zealand and Australia extensively sampled this intriguing ecosystem deep beneath waves familiar to fishing trawlers but rarely reached by scientists.

Macquarie Ridge is one of a few places where the Antarctic Circumpolar Current is detoured in its endless clockwise churn at the globes southernmost latitudes playing a vital part in the global ecosystem, merging and mixing waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Usually corals and sponges dominate seamount peaks, filtering food that arrives on the current. Biologists aboard the Tangaroa believe Brittlestar City is the first dense agg
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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
Source:Eurekalert  

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