Large and predatory Weddell seals were given a chance to wear cute hats in the name of science. But, no, these aren’t those party hats you commonly see at birthday parties. These are lightweight sensors that give important data back to oceanographers in Antarctica.
As ships find it hard to navigate through thick blocks of ice in the region, researchers from Japan's National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR) have found a clever way to solve their problems. Equipment that records conductivity, temperature, and depths were attached to these Weddell seals. The researchers wanted to find out the seasonal biological productions throughout the continental shelf areas.
The equipment transmitted data showing the dependency of the depth of warm water to the seasons. This, in turn, made researchers consider the enhancement of prey availability due to wind-driven physical processes in the Antarctic coastal marine ecosystem. These important sensor hats proved to be powerful research tools in exploring oceanographic and ecological conditions that may otherwise be futile due to close-to-impossible navigation.
Image: Nobuo Kokobun/NIPR