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Billions of juvenile polar cod under the Arctic ice

Staff writer |
Using a new net, marine biologists from Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute have, for the first time, been able to catch polar cod directly beneath the Arctic sea ice with a trawl, allowing them to determine their large-scale distribution and origin.

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This information is of fundamental importance, as polar cod are a major source of food for seals, whales and seabirds in the Arctic.

The study published in the journal Polar Biology shows that only juvenile fish are found under the ice, a habitat the researchers fear could disappear as a result of climate change.

Beluga whales, narwhals, ringed seals and numerous Arctic seabirds have one thing in common: their preferred food is polar cod, Boreogadus saida. As such, the fish is one of the Arctic Ocean’s most ecologically important animals.

Despite its importance, there are still gaps in our understanding of it. For example, biologists have known for years that juvenile polar cod live under the sea ice. However, to date it was not known just how many live there.

The journal Polar Biology has now published important new findings by researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Universität Hamburg and the Dutch research institute IMARES.


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