鶹Ӿ

Saving Antarctica’s Unique Biodiversity

Image of a of Channichthyid icefish that are the only animals with backbones that do not have red blood cells
29/11/2023

鶹ӾFellows, Professor Lloyd Peck and Professor Melody Clark, discuss how living things can exist and function at freezing temperatures and what can be done to protect them

Image of a of Channichthyid icefish that are the only animals with backbones that do not have red blood cells

To most of us, Antarctica is the white desolate continent at the remotest end of the Earth.  The coldest, driest, windiest, and most isolated continent where virtually nothing lives. This is, however, not true in the marine realm where around 20,000 species of marine animal exist in constant near or below-zero temperatures.  Such biodiversity in the polar regions is astonishing.  Two of our Fellows, Professor Lloyd Peck and Professor Melody Clark run research programmes on how living things can exist and function at these permanently low temperatures where some basic biological functions such as making proteins appear to be hugely difficult. 

A major problem for Antarctica’s prolific marine biodiversity is that evolving for 20 million years or so in constant cold temperatures has produced animals that are very sensitive to any warming and are thus amongst the most threatened by climate change. It has also produced biologies that do not exist anywhere else, such as fish that do not have red blood cells. These are the only animals with backbones (i.e. mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish) that do not have red blood cells.  There are few solutions to this problem, but some of them are discussed in a , where the ideas and hopes that Melody and Lloyd have for the future of this globally important biodiversity are highlighted.  

The future looks bleak for hundreds, if not thousands of the denizens of the coldest ocean on Earth.  We must do what we can, but what can we do? 

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