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Southern Ocean sampling reveals travels of marine microbes

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Posted September 19, 2013

By collecting water samples up to six kilometres below the surface of the Southern Ocean, UNSW researchers have shown for the first time the impact of ocean currents on the distribution and abundance of marine micro-organisms.

Southern Ocean sampling reveals travels of marine microbes
This image shows the Australia icebreaker, RSV Aurora Australis, from which samples of water in the Southern Ocean were taken at depths of up to 6 kilometers to study the marine microbes living there. Credit: UNSW

The sampling was the deepest ever undertaken from the Australian icebreaker, RSV Aurora Australis.

Microbes are so tiny they are invisible to the naked eye, but they are vital to sustaining life on earth, producing most of the oxygen we breathe, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and recycling nutrients.

“Microbes form the bulk of the biomass in oceans. All the fish, dolphins, whales, sponges and other creatures account for less than 5 per cent of the biomass,” says Professor Rick Cavicchioli, of the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, and leader of the team.

“Microbes perform roles that nothing else can carry out. And if one critical group of microbes was destroyed, life on the planet would cease to exist.”

 

Read more at: Phys.org

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