Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A new species of Burrowing Sea Anemone from the Ross Ice Shelf.

Burrowing Sea Anemones (Edwardsiidae) are small, worm-like Cnidarians that live largely within a substrate with only their tentacles and mouthparts exposed. Many species live in coastal settings such as lagoons or estuaries where salinity levels may fluctuate strongly, or may be consistently above or below normal sea levels. Others are found in a variety of other extreme environments, including the deepest marine trenches.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS One on 11 December 2013, Marymegan Daly of the Department of Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University and Frank Rack and Robert Zook of the Antarctic Geological Drilling Science Management Office at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln describe a new species of Burrowing Sea Anemone from the Ross Ice Shelf.

The new species is placed in the genus Edwardsiella, which has until now contained only species fro coastal environments, and is given the specific name andrillae, after the Antarctic Drilling program (AnDrill). Edwardsiella andrillae is a 16-20 mm Burrowing Sea Anemone that lives in burrows on the underside of the Ross Ice Shelf. The species was initially discovered by cameras inserted through drill-holes in the ice-sheet in oder to study the ecology of the underside of the ice.

(A) Close up of wild specimens of Edwardsiella andrillae. (B) Colony of Edwardsiella andrillae on the underside of the Ross Ice Shelf. (C) Entire animal. Daly et al. (2013).

Most members of the genus Edwardsiella are restricted to the northern hemisphere, where they live in burrows in sand, algal mats of other soft substrates in estuaries and other coastal settings in temperate climates. One other species in known from the southern Hemisphere, Edwardsiella ignota, which lives on the coast of Chile. Exactly how Edwardsiella andrillae excavates a burrow in a hard icy substrate is far from clear.

 Sites on the Ross Ice Shelf where Edwardsiella andrillae was found (A & B). Daly et al. (2013).

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