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Detectives in Antarctica: USF Scientists on the trail of global warming and a missing silverfish
Dr. Joseph Torres, a University of South Florida marine biologist and a St. Petersburg resident, is the chief scientist on a National Science Foundation expedition to Antarctica to research the dramatic decline of a key player in the food chain.  The Antarctic silverfish has disappeared from a significant part of its range. The suspected perpetrator is global warming.
[ADAM JENKINS | National Science Foundation (January 23, 2010)]
The research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer in Barilari Bay, Antarctic Peninsula.
Lastest dispatches from Antarctica
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Lastest Antarctica photos
[Photo by Paul Suprenand]
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Effects of global warming on animals: USF scientists study the Antarctic silverfish

What's happened to the Antarctic silverfish, which has gone missing from much of its range along the Antarctic coast? How has this disappearance affected the Adelie penguin, one of the silverfish's primary consumers in the food chain? Are both of these events connected to the effects of global warming on animals? Dr. Joseph Torres, a University of South Florida marine biologist, is leading a team of scientists intent on answering these questions. The investigative mission is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Here's what we know:

Torres says the Antarctic sea ice has long served as a refuge for newly hatched silverfish. But midwinter air temperatures in this region of Antarctica have risen 10 degrees in a generation. Higher temperatures mean far less sea ice; it forms later and doesn't last as long. Torres believes that with nowhere to hide, the Antarctic silverfish has been wiped out by predators in a large portion of its geographic range.

Aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a 300-foot research ship, the scientists will trawl the coastal waters for the fish, will visit penguin rookeries to check the birds' diet, and will dissect the silverfish they find and apply some technical wizardry with their earbones (yes, fish have earbones) to determine their birthplace. If the scientists' suspicions are founded, then a six-inch fish could be a key player in conclusions about the effects of global warming and climate change.

The expedition begins with a sail from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Palmer Station, crossing one of the wildest stretches of ocean on the planet. Among the species the scientists may encounter are penguins, elephant seals and killer whales. And of course, there will be ice.

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