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January 7, 2009

"Seal Cam" project (Image 3)

Swimming beneath the Antarctic ice, a bald rockcod (Pagothenia borchgrevinki) is photographed by "seal cam." Seal cam is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported project where scientists use seals as their "eyes" to see what goes on underneath the Antarctic ice. Antarctic Weddell seals are a predator of the bald rockcod.

Researchers Lee Fuiman of The University of Texas at Austin, Randall Davis of Texas A&M University, Galveston, and Terrie Williams of the University of California, Santa Cruz, equipped 15 Antarctic Weddell seals with video cameras, infrared LEDs and data recorders. As a result, they've gained new insight into the habits of two very important Southern Ocean fish species: the Antarctic silverfish (Pleurogramma antarcticum) and the Antarctic toothfish (Pagothenia borchgrevinki). The seals--marine predators--serve as guided, high-speed, midwater sampling devices for fish that have been especially difficult to study. New information about the behavior and distribution of these species indicates that some existing theories may need to be revised. Although seal cam has its limitations, it is a promising technique and could be used to study other pelagic and deep-water fish and invertebrates that are otherwise impossible to observe in their natural environment.

This work was supported by grants from NSF's Office of Polar Programs (OPP 96-14857, OPP 97-08151 and OPP 96-18384) and by the West Coast office of the National Undersea Research Program (UAF 02-0080). (Year of image: 2001) [Image 3 of 7 related images. See Image 4.]

Credit: Randall Davis, Texas A&M University; images under authorization of Marine Mammal Permit No. 821-1588-01.

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