Washington, Dec 2 : Scientists have made the first comprehensive "inventory" of sea and land animals around a group of Antarctic islands, which has revealed a region that is rich in biodiversity and has more species than the Galapagos.
The team of scientists that carried out the study was from the British Antarctic Survey and University of Hamburg in Germany.
The team combed the land, sea and shores of the South Orkney Islands, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, using scuba divers and trawled nets to catch creatures as deep as 1500 meters.
Animals recorded were then checked with a century of literature and modern databases and the team concludes there are over 1200 known marine and land species.
These include sea urchins, free-swimming worms, crustaceans and molluscs, mites and birds. Five of the species were new to science.
According to lead author Dr David Barnes from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), "This is the first time anybody has done an inventory like this in the polar regions. It's part of the Census of Marine Life (COML) - an international effort to assess and explain the diversity and distribution of marine life in the world's oceans."
"If we are to understand how these animals will respond to future change, a starting point like this is really important," he added.
"We never knew there were so many different species on and around these islands," said author Stefanie Kaiser from University of Hamburg.
"This abundance of life was completely unexpected for a location in the polar regions, previously perceived to be poor in biodiversity," she added.