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Surprising Science


A new study of creatures that dwell on the seabed, known as macrobenthos, of the Straits of Magellan and Drake is helping scientists understand the biodiversity and ecology of the region.

“A study of animals visible to the naked eye and living in and on the seabed — the ‘macrobenthos’ — of the Straits of Magellan and Drake Passage will help scientists understand the biodiversity, biogeography and ecology of the Magellanic region. ‘The biodiversity data are from my very first oceanographic cruise with the Chilean Navy in the Magellanic region in 1997, as an early undergraduate,’ said Dr Sven Thatje of the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton: ‘The beauty of this dataset is the comprehensive diversity analysis with probably more than 10 per cent of species new to science.’ The cruise was part of the Chilean ‘Cimar Fiordo III’ expedition.The soft sediments at the seafloor were sampled at depths ranging between 35 and 571 metres using a ‘box corer’ lowered from the Chilean navy vessel RV Vidal Gormaz. Samples were taken within the Straits of Magellan, the seaway separating mainland South America and the islands of the Tierra Del Fuego archipelago, and the eastern part of the Beagle Channel which separates South America from Antarctica. Samples were also taken from adjacent channels and fjords, some of which had been visited for the first time ever during the cruise.”


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