Interdecadal Variation in an Antarctic Sponge and Its Predators from Oceanographic Climate Shifts

Science  29 Sep 1989:
Vol. 245, Issue 4925, pp. 1484-1486
DOI: 10.1126/science.245.4925.1484


During the 1960s there was extensive formation of anchor ice to depths of 30 meters at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. During this period the sponge Homaxinella balfourensis was rare, as were its predators in that depth zone. Most of the existing sponges were killed by anchor ice. During the 1970s, anchor ice formation was reduced, and there was a massive recruitment of Homaxinella, which covered as much as 80 percent of the substrata in that zone. Many predators appeared but did not control the sponge population, and it continued to grow through that decade. The early 1980s were characterized by ice formation and almost all of the Homaxinella were eliminated, leaving an order of magnitude more predators in that zone. The interdecadal increases in anchor ice probably result from local upwelling of extremely cold deep water, possibly in response to shifts in the strengths of regional currents.

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