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Arctic Sea Ice and the Food Web. See the associated lesson plan at http://nature.ca/education/cls/lp/lpasi_e.cfm. Page 1. Teacher Zone nature.ca/education. Arctic Sea Ice and the Food Web. Sea ice plays an important role in the food web of the Arctic marine ecosystem.

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Arctic sea ice and the food web l.jpg

Arctic Sea Ice and the Food Web

See the associated lesson plan at

http://nature.ca/education/cls/lp/lpasi_e.cfm

Page 1

Teacher Zone

nature.ca/education


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Arctic Sea Ice and the Food Web

Sea ice plays an important role in the food web of the Arctic marine ecosystem.

In this presentation, you will encounter a variety of species that are part of this ecosystem.

Arctic sea ice in Resolute Bay.

André Martel © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 2

Teacher Zone

nature.ca/education


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Sea-Ice Core

  • The underside of Arctic sea ice provides habitat for a community of algae and associated microscopic life known as sympagic organisms.

  • They are an important food source for other marine animals higher up in the food web.

  • In this image, you can see a colony of diatoms (a type of algae) on the bottom of a core sample of Arctic sea ice.

Diatoms in sea ice core.

Michel Poulin © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 3

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The Basis of the Food Web

  • The basis of the food web in oceans depends primarily on microscopic plantscalled phytoplankton, which usually live in the water.

  • In the Arctic, phytoplankton are also found in and on the sea ice.

  • Phytoplankton use the energy of the sun to make carbohydrates using the process of photosynthesis.

Diatoms (Trigonium arcticum) viewed

through a microscope.

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 4

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Zooplankton

  • This provides a food supply for a group of tiny animals known as zooplankton, which live in close association with, or even inside, the sea ice.

  • The zooplankton include various microscopic animals as well as small crustaceans such as amphipods, copepods and krill.

Northern Krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica).

Uwe Kils © Uwe Kils

Page 5


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Amphipods

  • Amphipods are small, shrimp-like crustaceans.

  • Amphipods are eaten by fish such as Capelin and Arctic Cod, which are very important in the diet of other fish, marine mammals and seabirds.

  • Some seabirds, such as the Arctic Tern, also feed on amphipods, as do young seals.

Amphipod (Anonyx sp.).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 6

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Isopods

  • Isopods are a very diverse group of crustaceans. The group includes sowbugs, which can often be seen in basements or gardens.

  • The isopods that live in the Arctic Ocean are mostly carnivorous. They feed on dead whales, fish and squid.

  • Isopods may also be active predators of slow-moving prey, such as sea cucumbers, sponges, radiolarians, nematodes and other animals that live on the ocean floor.

Isopod (Arcturus baffini).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 5

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Cockles

  • The cockle is a bivalve (an animal with a shell made up of two halves).

  • Bivalves include clams, scallops, mussels and oysters.

  • Arctic cockles are preyed upon by fish, walruses, bearded seals and several duck species.

Cockle (Serripes groenlandicus).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 7

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Nudibranchs

  • Nudibranchs are gastropods. They are commonly referred to as sea slugs.

  • A nudibranch is carnivore that lives on the sea floor, and, depending on the group, feeds on hydroids, sponges, anemones, bryozoans and other organisms.

Nudibranch (Dendronotus frondosus).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 8

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Sea Cucumbers

  • Sea cucumbers are animals in the phylum Echinodermata.

  • They are generally scavengers. They use their tube feet to trap food particles, such as dead and decaying matter, from the sea floor sediment.

  • Many also use their branchial tree to trap particles suspended in the water.

Sea cucumber (Cucumaria).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 9

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Sea Anemones

  • Sea anemones are animals in the phylum Cnidaria.

  • They usually remain attached to hard surfaces, such as shells or rocks, but some of them burrow into the sea floor.

Sea anemone (Hormathia nodosa).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 10

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Sea Urchins

  • Sea urchin are another group of animals in the phylum Echinodermata.

  • They usually live on hard substrates, and feed by scraping off algae and encrusting animals with their five teeth.

  • Their teeth are located in a complex organ on the underside of their shell that is called an Aristotle’s lantern.

Sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus pallidus).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Sea Stars

  • Most sea stars are carnivores whose favourite food are bivalves.

  • They have a unique feeding method: they use their tube feet to pry open the two halves of a bivalve, and then they insert their stomach inside it!

  • Their stomach then releases enzymes that slowly digest the animal within its own shell.

Sea star (Crossaster papposus).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Arctic Cod

  • Arctic Cod are fish that eat mainly crustaceans, such as shrimp, amphipods and copepods.

  • Arctic Cod are eaten by a variety of other large fish, as well as many seabirds and most Arctic marine mammals.

  • They are the link in the food web between small amphipods and higher vertebrates.

Arctic Cod (Boreogadus saida).

Kathy Conlan © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Walrus

  • Walruses prefer to eat molluscs (mainly bivalves such as clams and mussels), which they suck from the shells.

  • They also consume many other kinds of invertebrates including worms, gastropods, cephalopods, crustaceans, sea cucumbers and other soft-bodied animals.

Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus).

Stewart MacDonald © Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 14

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Ringed Seal

  • Ringed seals are the most abundant seal species in the Arctic.

  • They use the ice for breeding, moulting and resting. They rarely, if ever, move onto land.

  • Ringed seals have a varied diet that comprises primarily shrimp-like crustaceans and small fish such as Arctic Cod.

Ringed seal (Pusa hispida).

©iStockphoto.com/Zvozdochka

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Beluga

  • Belugas are commonly found in ice-covered waters. They rely on open water at ice edges, leads and polynyas as places to surface for breathing.

  • They feed on crustaceans and small fish such as Arctic Cod.

Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas).Buchan/Shutterstock.com

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Polar Bear

  • The polar bear is dependent on sea ice for most of its needs, and as a result, is often regarded as a marine mammal.

  • A polar bear’s diet consists mainly of ringed and bearded seals.

  • Polar bears also occasionally feed on whales and young walruses.

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus).

Stewart MacDonald @ Canadian Museum of Nature

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Arctic Sea Ice and the Food Web

The Arctic marine ecosystem is more fragile than more-complex ecosystems found further south.

If one species is lost, there may be few or none that can take its place in the food web.

Arctic Sea ice.

Stewart MacDonald @ Canadian Museum of Nature

Page 18

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