Deep-diving elephant and Weddell seals in Antarctica have helped scientists gather more data from the deep to study the ocean floor in efforts to predict glacial ice melting patterns, Scientific American reported.
Scientists in the southernmost part of the world placed GPS trackers on the seals to gather information about ocean depths and temperatures.
The study was published in Communications Earth and Environment.
Researchers looked at previous maps of the sea floor and tried to discover new depths by measuring the data collected from the GPS on the seals.
In some instances, the research team spotted anomalies, as the seals dove deeper than the maps said they could.
Meaning, if the map said the sea floor was at 500 metres, the seals were diving to 600 metres.
A breakthrough was made in Vincennes Bay, on the eastern Antarctic continental shelf, when the seals helped discover an underwater canyon around 1.6km deep.
A research ship helped confirm what the seals found using sonar technology.
The co-author of the study, Clive McMahon, said the seals discovered the canyon and an Australian vessel helped confirm it.
“Building on previous work using seal dives to redefine bathymetry, our longitudinal study of ocean physics and animal behaviour provided new depth information from over 500,000 individual seal dives on the East Antarctic continental shelf.
“About 25% of these seal dives were 220 m (sometimes over 1,000 m) deeper than the interpolated sea floor from IBCSO V2,” said an excerpt from the study.
The IBCSO V2 stands for International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean Version 2.
Bathymetry is the study of ocean beds, river beds, or the bed of any large catchment of water.
What the seals did helped the team gather more intelligence about the causes and effects of nature in the southern oceans, particularly the rate at which our glacial ice melts.
This was the sentiment of Anna Wåhlin, an oceanographer at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, according to Scientific American.
The ice in Antarctica plays an important role in maintaining the temperatures of our planet, as the large surface area of ice reflects most of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation instead of absorbing it.
The Antarctic is also the largest fresh water storage facility in the world.