We’ve gotten amazing samples with the epibenthic sled, including an accidental rock! The rock had some attached invertebrates, but not any of our target species of Cumacea or Aplacophora. It has been a busy time in the lab, as we had two epibenthic sleds within 12 hours, with lots of exciting animals to be found, photographed and preserved. Days at sea are long, with 12 hour shifts in the lab, which leaves just enough time to eat, sleep and workout. Of course, we do take penguin breaks while working. Any day with a penguin is a good day! This morning, the first I did thing was go out on deck, and I saw a penguin startled by the ship running across the ice. While penguins are not invertebrates, it is fun to see them. We are on a bit of a break at the moment, transiting through ice.
During this cruise, we have found several probable new species that will need to be described and named, including a species of Atlantocuma, and two different species in the genus Holostylis. We have also seen some old favorites, including a bright orange Cyclaspis and a more gentle orange Platytyphlops. The epibenthic sled has been incredibly good at collecting a wide variety of cumaceans, with the maximum diversity at a single site of 20 species. In contrast, using other gear such as box cores, the maximum diversity we found on the 2020 Icy Inverts cruise was 10 species at one station. We have also gotten very high numbers of cumaceans, with at least two sites with over 500 cumaceans each. It turns out that Antarctic cumaceans are very colorful, with colors including pink, purple, red, orange, and some with delicate patterns of spots. Being able to see cumaceans alive and healthy, with their natural coloration, is amazing. Some cumaceans have an eyelobe that looks like a soccer ball, with a white background with red patches.
Dr. Sarah Gerken
University of Alaska Anchorage