Microbes in Antarctic Waters Below Australia

2 Oct

When Douglas Mawson led his expedition from Australia to Antarctica in 1912, he travelled through oceans that were virtually unknown. Few ships had navigated those seas below latitude 55 S.  Mawson thought he was in ‘an ice age in all earnestness.’  He was fascinated by the possibilities of Antarctica. His expedition studied all aspects of the seas as well as the continent.

He would have devoured the discoveries relating to marine microorganisms – those essential components of the sea that absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen – in the Southern Ocean. Samples across a 3,000 km stretch between Antarctica and Western Australia and difficult to obtain, showed the important discovery that the microbial communities are connected significantly by ocean currents. DNA examination showed that microbes geographically close to each other can be dissimilar, whilst those far apart are similar if connected by currents.

Mawson would have rejoiced in the baffling complexity and fascination of nature.

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