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Image: An Antarctic Weddell seal playfully opens its mouth as another seal approaches. A [See related images: Antarctic Toothfish (Pagothenia borchgrevinki), Toothfish Under the Antarctic Ice, Weddell Seal Pup, Weddell Seal Resting on Ice, Weddell Seal Displays Catch, and Weddell Seal Wearing "Seal Cam."]

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Researchers Lee Fuiman from the University of Texas at Austin, Randall Davis from Texas A&M University, Galveston, and Terrie Williams from 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 insights 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 deepwater fishes and invertebrates that are otherwise impossible to observe in their natural environment.

This work was supported by NSF Office of Polar Programs (OPP) grants OPP 96-14857, OPP 97-08151, and OPP 96-18384, and by the West Coast Office of the National Undersea Research Program, grant UAF 02-0080. Thumbnail">


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