At first glance, Antarctica seems inhospitable. Known for howling gales and extremely cold temperatures, the continent is blanketed with a mile-thick ice shelf. Occasional elephant seals and seabirds fleck the glacial shorelines.
Yet dipping below the waves, the Southern Ocean teems with biodiversity: vibrant swaths of sea ice algae and cyanobacteria, swarming krill and crustaceans, bristling kelp forests, gigantic polar sea spiders and sponges, whale pods, and abundant Antarctic fish fauna.
These fishes play a vital role in the Southern Ocean’s food web of 9,000 known marine species, yet their subzero haven may be at risk. A 2021 climate analysis posited that by 2050 some areas of the Antarctic continental shelf will be