April 2, 2023
After a long transit from New Zealand, we finally made it to Antarctica!!! For the next month we will be cruising through Eastern Antarctica studying the nematodes that live here.
Today we will begin deploying a tool – dubbed the mega corer – to collect sediments from the ocean floor. We are interested in the tiny, microscopic worms, known as nematodes, that live there. What makes these worms even more interesting are the numerous bacteria that live on their cuticle. Collectively, the bacteria that encapsulate the worms are known as the microbiome. Some nematodes have developed a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that allow them to survive.
In marine systems, other nematodes, such as the stilbonematids, rely on their bacteria to detoxify their environment allowing them to survive in these harsh conditions. Others, such as the Astomonema, have become so reliant on bacteria that they haven’t developed a conventional gut and mouth! Instead, bacteria live in a rudimentary gut system and provide the worm with the necessary energy and nutrition to survive.
Antarctic worms are no different! These worms might harbor a unique microbiome that have helped them adapt to this environment. Using DNA sequencing, we will further understand how nematodes interact with their microbiome.
Alejandro De Santiago
University of Georgia