Dr. Luis Miguel Pardo observed that the commonly known “sea fleas”, would be sustaining the white continent´s food web at the seafloor. 

Amphipods are small crustaceans, commonly known as “sea fleas”. Photograh: Luis Miguel Pardo

Amphipods- like-shrimps small crustaceans, commonly known as “sea fleas”- could play a crucial role in food webs of the Antarctic ocean floor. This is one of the main observations made by the scientist, Dr. Luis Miguel Pardo, at the Research Center Dynamics of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL), during his 17-day stay in the white continent, in the framework of the 53rd Chilean Antarctic Scientific Expedition.  

For the first time, Dr. Pardo and his team of biologists and scientific divers, could carry out quantitative sampling using an airlift suction sampler  in the benthic environment of Antarctic waters, which will allow them to study the great biodiversity there. After analyzing the first samples of amphipods, the researcher observed that these organisms could be fulfilling a role similar to that of the Antarctic krill in the water column, fundamental food for the survival of several species that inhabit the white continent, such as whales and penguins. 

Dr. Luis Miguel Pardo at INACH’s the Escudero Station.

The photos and videos that are usually used to investigate the ocean depths allow us to observe only larger organisms such as limpets, sea urchins or starfish. However, thanks to a bottom suction technique, Pardo could observe the detail of the place. This was how he became aware of the great abundance of amphipods. 

“Now, much more precise and adequate techniques were used to capture all the biodiversity, especially the one that is more cryptic and mobile”, he adds. 

In his passage through Antarctica, Dr. Pardo also observed that there are many organisms that are predators of amphipods, such as, for example, birds and fish that live at the bottom of the sea and usually feed on them.

Pardo´s investigation, will continue after making a detailed description of the different types of “sea fleas” found. ” There are many amphipod species that are morphologically similar but are ultimately distinct. These are called cryptic species, and in general, are not studied in depth because of how difficult it is to recognize them”, says the scientist.  

Amphipod samples are being analyzed at Dr. Pardo’s laboratories in the University Austral of Chile in Valdivia. The first research results are expected to be in October 2017. 

“These investigations will help us to know and understand in detail, how great the biodiversity that inhabits Antarctica is”, concluded the researcher.