Monday, February 26, 2007

Exotic animals seen where Antarctic ice used to be

Spindly orange sea stars, fan-finned ice fish and herds of roving sea cucumbers are among the exotic creatures spied off the Antarctic coast in an area formerly covered by ice, scientists reported on Sunday.

This is the first time explorers have been able to catalog wildlife where two mammoth ice shelves used to extend for some 3,900 square miles over the Weddell Sea.

At least 5,000 years old, the ice shelves collapsed in two stages over the last dozen years. One crumbled 12 years ago and the other followed in 2002.

Global warming is seen as the culprit behind the ice shelves' demise, said Gauthier Chapelle of the Polar Foundation in Brussels.

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