Unsolved Mystery: Identical Sea Critters Found in Both Poles

The Census of Marine Life has just released a study of the ocean creatures living in the Arctic and the Antarctic with a startling revelation: 235 identical species thrive in the waters around the North and South Poles, despite the distance 11,000 kilometers between them.

i-27d4775dda188d3c4c57ce61e8cb67c8-Arctic Creature 6 - nemertean pelagonemertes rollestoni.jpg

The nemertean pelogonemertes rollestoni and its oddly shaped see-through stomach

While some of the animals migrate to the different areas from warmer seas (whales, birds, etc.) there are some creatures that are too small to migrate and thus are evidently identical species who are born and die in their separate poles. Obviously, this raises serious questions as to how these seemingly the exact same species managed to get literally to opposite sides of the Earth.

On a side note, hats off to the brave researchers who have been conducting these studies. The scientists collecting the samples often had to do so in harrowing conditions, amid icy, 16-foot waves and constant threat of hungry polar bears. Some even had to have armed guards to protect them from bears while conducting their research.

Genetic tests are underway to determine just how identical some of these species are. Got any ideas for how they might have gotten where they are? By all means, do share.

i-c86dfb7287786f26d5e7c5f8ae503b99-Arctic Creature 4 - Gaetanus brevispinus.jpg

Gaetanus brevispinus - Common cold water crustacean

More pics below the fold...

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Clione lamacina, swimming snail.

i-730e09e21d5a58eb1fbade02aa298713-Arctic Creature 3 - Limacina helicinia.jpg

Another swimming snail, the Lamacina helicinia

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Sand flea

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Another shot of the famed Gaetanus brevispinus

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Ice fish


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Could they be carried from one hemisphere to the other in ships' ballast and then currents take them the rest of the way?

Can they hitch a ride on a whale ?

Eggs on birds' feet? (Might work for some species, maybe.)

How many days before this shows up on Creationist sites, as "proof" that Goddidit?

ComradePhysioProf May the FSM condemn you to an eternity in boiling spaghetti sauce - i.o.w. you beat me to it :) The Creationists will love this

Didn't the last glaciation period end about 11,000 years ago? I don't know if it would have been cold enough at the equator, but if it was, their range could have been global. When the glaciers retreated they would have been separated into two populations. I don't think 11,000 years is that long from an evolutionary perspective.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 16 Feb 2009 #permalink

Cross-posting this (which I think I originally posted on The Intersection ):
A few items that come to mind. The Arctic Tern, which migrates seasonally between the Arctic and Antarctic. A few whales may be capable of swimming the distance, and surviving in the various water temperatures. There are long, wide currents of Antarctic bottom water in every ocean. Near the surface, there is the Humboldt current which brings extremely cold Antarctic water all the way from the Antarctic to the equator - thus resulting in penguins in the Galapagos. Finally, just 15,000 years ago, the climate was about 10C cooler globally, in a major glaciation. This made the distance between the Arctic and Antarctic environments much smaller. While in most glaciations NH ice sheets did not advance much further south than the US Canada border, there were a few in which NH ice sheets advanced as far south as Kansas. For something like 70-90% of the last 2.5 million years, the climate was experiencing a major glaciation.
Lots of fascinating directions to look in for the answer to how so many species came to live in both polar seas.

If all the crappy pulp novels and nutbar pseudoscience I've read is at all accurate then what we have here is definitive, undeniable proof of the Hollow Earth, where these organisms make their home and radiate outward to both poles.

I'm not sure whether this revelation is really quite as mystifying as it's made out to be. In the same press release, they estimate the total number of species in Arctic waters at around 7,500 - 235 would be only 3 % of that. Is a 3 % overlap really that surprising? Most of the ways a species might successfully migrate from one pole to the other appear like long shots, but given the timescale involved, a couple of them are bound to get lucky - so I'd be much more surprised if there wasn't at least a certain degree of overlap.

By Phillip IV (not verified) on 17 Feb 2009 #permalink

We need to see if they really are identical first. This could be convergent evolution. Or it could be something like the ocean current conveyor carying them.

Sean, everyone knows the Hollow Earth doesn't exist! They originated in the south pole and swam through the molten core of our planet to get to the north. And north is higher up, so they have a better view of the stars from there. Mm-hm.

Bilge water.

By BlindRobin (not verified) on 17 Feb 2009 #permalink

Thermohaline circulation between the 2 poles in the Atlantic Ocean and to a lesser degree, Pacific.

Itâs incredible that there are so many mysteries related to ocean life. Itâs also wonderfully interesting for scientists to try to solve these puzzles in order to further understand life on earth. Would you like to share some content with the readers and contributors of the "Canadian Biotechnologist 2.0 Blog"? This venue is a community effort devoted to the productivity of the Canadian Biotechnology sector and the fine people who take part in this profession across the country. We are inviting bench scientists and technologists to contribute content: posters, tools, research, presentations, articles, white papers, multimedia, music downloads and entertainment, conference announcements, videos etc. Additionally, we are interested in publicizing the work of your organization. Generally, we are looking for 250 - 500 word articles.
Please feel free to visit the blog.

Marine creatures at both poles!? You mean lake vostock?

Seriously, I'd go with the wale migration theory.

Hey you guys, ironically, Comrade prof dude is not that far wrong.

The migration theory is totally incorrect, but interesting none the


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Finally, just 15,000 years ago, the climate was about 10C cooler globally, in a major glaciation. This made the distance between the Arctic and Antarctic environments much smaller