"Mysterious and spooky

They're altogether ooky"

-by Vic Mizzy, The Addams Family theme

Two sea spiders on a rock
A creature from outer space? No, just two sea spider genus Ammothea hanging out on a rock together. Crary Lab Aquarium, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

I've heard it's a bit dark down there, this land under the sea ice where the sea spiders live in the mud at the bottom of the sea floor. The light barely makes it through the 150cm thick ice and photosynthetic diatoms gather at the top, reaching for sunlight, just under the ice. The divers carry flashlights and a container used to collect sea spiders and nudibranchs as well as their eggs.

The first step to answer the question how will marine ectotherms be affected by warming ocean temperatures is to find some marine ectotherms. As a reminder, these are cold-blooded animals so their temperature is based on the temperature of their environment. They are also invertebrates so they don't have a vertebrae, which we call our backbone. Finding these fascinating creatures involves diving under the ice to gather them. This is why we have divers and dive tenders as part of our research team!

Looking at sea spiders in a white tub
Sorting out what the divers found while diving. The sea spider Nymphon was the catch of the day today. Jetty Dive Hut, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica

*nymphon* sea spiders in a container
These Nymphon were collected under the ice at the Jetty dive hut, McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Large spice containers make good collecting devices.

The research is specifically focused on sea spiders and nudibranchs. When the divers plunge into the icy water, they have specific sea spiders and nudibranchs they are looking for. When I visited The Logan School in Denver one of the students asked me my favorite type of sea spider. At the time, I didn't yet know all of the amazing sea spiders that exist. Each has their own special scientific name AND when someone discovers a new one they get to name it! I've gotten to know the ones we have in the aquarium pretty well and the genus that are around here are:

SEA SPIDERS

Ammothea

Nymphon

Pallenopsis

Pycnogonum

Colossendeis

Pentanyphon

We also have the following flowing nudibranchs:

NUDIBRANCHS

Tritoniella belli

Tritonia chellengeriana

Cuthona

Notaeolidia

Doto

dorid nudibranchs

The research is only focusing on a few genus because they are easy to find and there are a lot of them. Let me introduce you to the stars of our research so far:

SEA SPIDERS STARS

Ammothea - have spine like bumps down their back

Sea spider on a rock
This sea spider is in the genus Ammothea. Note the bumps on its back. Crary Lab, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Sea spider on a rock with two of its legs raised
Ammothea on a rock in the Crary Lab, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Nymphon- have long chelicerae (a pincher-like mouth part) that extends beyond its proboscis

Sea spiders on a rock
These sea spiders are the genus Nymphon. This sea spider is abundant in the waters of Antarctica. They cover the sea floor. Here they are together in the Crary Lab, McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

NUDIBRANCH STARS

Tritoniella belli

white nudibranch on a rock
Nudibranch Tritoniella belli on a rock in the Crary Lab Aquarium, McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

white nudibranch on a rock
Nudibranch Tritoniella belli with its head up on a rock in the Crary Lab Aquarium, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Tritonia challengeriana

Nudibranch on a rock
Nudibranch Tritonia challengeriana on a rock in the Crary Lab Aquarium, McMurdo Station, Antarctica. This species looks like it has pom poms on it.

You might be thinking to yourself, ok, well it sounds like you've rounded up a whole mess of sea spiders and nudibranchs there in Antarctica...now what will you do with them?

Good question...well, remember we are trying to figure out how warming ocean temperatures will affect their growth and development. (Did you think about how you would measure growth and development in a living thing around your home?) First we need them at very early stages of life so we can see how they grow. This means we've collected the eggs from some of them and we also have some adults hoping we'll wind up with some eggs in the lab.

tanks filled with water and containing sea spiders and nudibranchs
This is where we put the sea spiders and nudibranchs that are collected during the dives. Crary Lab Aquarium, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

spiral egg mass from a nudibranch
The nudibranch Tritoniella belli lays a wide spiral egg mass.

Sea spiders and tea infuser baskets holding eggs masses in a tank of water
Crary Lab tank holding sea spiders and tea infuster baskets containing egg masses. Crary Lab, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

One thing I love to do is go into the aquarium each morning and evening and check on all of the sea spiders and nudibranchs. I'm looking to see if any have laid eggs and what their behavior is like.

taking notes in an aquatic lab
Amy Osborne making observations and taking notes in the Crary Lab Aquarium

Nudibranch laying an egg mass
This is the nudibranch I observed yesterday starting to lay an egg mass. The egg mass is getting longer! Crary Lab, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Once we gather the egg masses from the nudibranchs and sea spiders then we need to separate out the eggs. This requires using a microscope to take the eggs out of the egg mass. We then separate the egg masses or even individual eggs into different wells or vials so we can run experiments and observe them.

dish holding a nudibranch egg mass under a microscope
Graham Lobert uses a microscope to separate nudibranch eggs from an egg mass. Crary Lab, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

These experiments and observations are a story for tomorrow.

In the meantime, make some observations around the place you live. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Draw a picture of what you see and write what you hear and smell. Feel free to share in the comments section below. And, as always, feel free to ask questions and write comments.


A REMINDER YOU CAN JOIN ME LIVE FROM MCMURDO STATION IN ANTARCTICA!

Want to talk to me live at McMurdo field station in Antarctica? Want to meet some of the animals that live in the aquarium here in Antarctica? Want to hear more about the research we are doing, see it in action, and ask questions? Then sign up for my PolarConnect event! This will be a 45 minute to 1 hour live presentation and conversation. All are welcome to join! It will be geared towards K-12 classrooms so be sure to tell your teacher friends, or if you are a teacher please join in!!!

When: November 22, 2019 8:30 AM AKST (9:30 AM PST, 10:30 AM MST, 11:30 AM CST, 12:30 PM EST)

How: You need to register for the event by clicking HERE. You'll need to select November 22 Amy Osborne under Event Choice.

I hope you can join me!!


TRIVIA TIME

It's that time again...Trivia time! Write your answers in the comments section below by Thursday, November 14th at 5:00 Pacific time and you could get a postcard from Antarctica!

1. What does McMurdo Station do with all of its waste?

a. Throw it under the sea ice

b. bury it in the frozen ground

c. Ship it to California

d. Burn it

2. Why is the ocean temperature increasing?

a. because the average temperature of the earth is increasing due to climate change

b. because the sun is getting bigger and making everything hotter

c. because there is not enough ice melting into the ocean anymore

d. because there are too many fish swimming around and all of that movement heats up the ocean

3. What are some things that are part of my role in Antarctica and on the research team?

a. cook everyone lunch, teach the kids here, clean the Galley

b. communicate the research through online journals, make observations in the aquarium, conduct outreach by skype to K-12 classrooms

c. cut people's hair, use a bunsen burner, feed the sea spiders

d. mix chemicals, work at the coffee shop, unload science cargo

4. Who is the principal investigator on the current Antarctic marine ectotherm team?

a. Sylvia Earle b. Jane Goodall c. Amy Moran d. Mae Jemison

(If you don't know who all of these women are you should. Look them up and find out how amazing they are!)

5. Make some observations around the place you live. Write the things you see, hear, and smell. What questions do you have about the things around you?

Author
Date
Coordinates
77° 50' 46" S , 166° 40' 34" E
Location
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Weather Summary
sunny, warm for here
Temperature
-2°C/28°F
Wind Speed
10 knots
Wind Chill
-8°C/18°F
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