Scientists Seek Sticky Barnacles with Social Media Campaign

Scientists Seek Sticky Barnacles with Social Media Campaign-image

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Researchers at the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway are hoping to enlist the help of the general public to gather a rare barnacle which occasionally washes up on Irish shores. The specimens will be used to advance scientific knowledge surrounding the adhesive properties of barnacles. Barnacles have an amazing ability to attach themselves to every surface imaginable – even non-stick frying pans – and researchers at NUI Galway are studying the glue that the barnacle produces. They hope that one day synthetic versions of this natural underwater super-glue will be available for use in applications such as surgery and dentistry. However, the species under study is the goose barnacle (Lepas anatifera), which is lives out at sea and is very difficult to find. In order to continue their research more goose barnacles are required and the research group has now launched a media campaign, including a facebook and twitter campaign, to encourage the public to help find them. A Zoology PhD student, Jaimie-Leigh Jonker, who is working with NUI Galway’s Dr Anne Marie Power, explains: “These large goose barnacles sporadically wash ashore along the Irish coast in a mostly unpredictable manner; while popular surfing beaches like Fanore and Doughmore Bay have proved fruitful in the past, these animals could wash up anywhere. When washed ashore they will die from exposure to heat, light and air, unless we find them first and bring them back to our aquarium.” Barnacles secrete a glue-like substance which consists of several proteins and somehow sticks to both the barnacle’s body and whatever surface it is on, where it hardens to form a very strong ‘cement’. “It might seem perfectly ordinary that a sea creature can stick to a surface, but if you stop to think about it you may realise that it’s actually quite an incredible innovation by nature, says Jaimie-Leigh. “We humans haven’t managed to create glues that can be used successfully in wet environments, but nature has done it over and over again.” The purpose of the current research at NUI Galway is to understand how the barnacle glue works, through examining both the glands inside the body that produce the glue and the proteins that make up the glue. “Eventually we hope to be able to create synthetic proteins with the same adhesive properties, which could be put to use as glues for surgery and dentistry”, explains Jaimie-Leigh. “Within just a decade or so the way that we practice surgery is likely to change greatly, with one of those changes being the replacement of sutures, staples and pins with adhesives copied from nature.” Jaimie-Leigh and her colleagues would love to hear from anybody that comes across goose barnacles on the Irish coast this summer. You can contact the barnacle research group at the Zoology in NUI Galway, on 091 493191 or through email (, twitter (@BarnacleHunt) and facebook ( -ENDS-

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Fujitsu Announces Significant Research Programme with DERI at NUI Galway

Fujitsu Announces Significant Research Programme with DERI at NUI Galway-image

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Fujitsu Ireland today announced that Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu, the global ICT giant, will begin a significant investment in a research programme with Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) based in NUI Galway. The research will be conducted in the area of Networked Knowledge, identifying new models and commercial opportunities for exploiting the vast quantities of static and dynamic data on the Internet, making it more valuable to end-users. The programme has been supported by the Government through IDA and Science Foundation Ireland.   Tatsuo Tomita, President of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., commenting on the announcement said, “Fujitsu aims to enable a ‘Human Centric Intelligent Society’ for which Fujitsu Laboratories conducts R&D of advanced technologies to generate value by linking individuals, things, and information, and will leverage such created value to conduct R&D of advanced technologies to offer inspiration, discovery, reliability, and growth. Big data will be the foundation for enabling such a society, and we at Fujitsu view as essential the data processing of big data - in other words, the gathering, semantic analysis, and categorisation of big data.  This joint research collaboration with DERI featuring large-scale research resources in the field of Semantic Web offers new R&D opportunities and represents a step forward toward the realization of a Human Centric Intelligent Society envisioned by Fujitsu.” Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, said: “Key to the Government’s plan to get growth and jobs back into the economy again is a determination to ensure that we get a better commercial return from State-funded research. That is why the recent Research Prioritisation exercise focused on turning good ideas into good jobs by selecting a small number of areas where investment will be targeted. “Future networks is one of the areas selected, and today’s announcement that world-leading company Fujitsu is investing in industry-led research activity in this area shows what is possible. I commend IDA and Science Foundation Ireland on their work which has enabled today’s announcement. I am determined that, through continued implementation of the Action Plan for Jobs, industry-led research in the priority areas will see more commercialisation and ultimately more jobs for Ireland.” Commenting on how this announcement will impact positively on Ireland, Regina Moran, CEO of Fujitsu Ireland said, “The aim of the research programme is to ensure that the results it delivers are the seeds for the innovation of commercial services and products right here in Ireland. If Ireland is to succeed in being a leader in technology innovation, investment in world-class research programmes such as this, here in Ireland, are critical. We cannot stand in the wings waiting for innovations elsewhere in the world to reach us, we need to demonstrate leadership.” The research will be led by Professor Stefan Decker, Director of DERI at NUI Galway and one of the leading scientists in the Semantic Web field.  He and the research team will be investigating models and approaches for integrating and validating data available on the Internet with a view to enabling innovative applications and businesses to be designed and brought to the market across numerous industries. Professor Stefan Decker said:  "There was an immediate meeting of minds when we met with the team from Fujitsu. Their vision around human centric computing has great synergies with our research on the Semantic Web. This programme will create high-end research jobs in Ireland, adding to our team of scientists here. With a strong focus on innovation and research, we expect that more job opportunities will arise as the research progresses.” Welcoming the investment, Barry O’Leary, CEO IDA Ireland said “I would like to offer Fujitsu Ireland my congratulations on securing this important R&D investment from Fujitsu Laboratories.  The complexity of the project is a key endorsement of the calibre of personnel working in the Irish operation and further solidifies the company in Ireland.” This research programme with DERI will begin in July 2012.   -ends-

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Phytoplankton Blooms May Remove Atmospheric Carbon

Phytoplankton Blooms May Remove Atmospheric Carbon-image

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Researchers Publish Results of an Iron Fertilisation Experiment in the Scientific Journal Nature Carbon can be transported to the bottom of the ocean, and stored there, by sinking microscopic phytoplankton following iron fertilization, according to a report co-authored by Professor Peter Croot, National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway in Nature this week. These findings are by no means a green light for using this approach to generate carbon offsets. The researchers note that further experiments are needed to evaluate the effects on ecology, climate and the processes that determine the composition of the environment. These results do however provide a valuable contribution to our understanding of the global carbon cycle. “These new data clearly shows that at the end of this phytoplankton bloom, a significant amount of the carbon was transported to the deep ocean over a relatively short time, a phenomenon which had not been observed in any great detail previously anywhere in the ocean” explained Dr Croot. Previous ocean iron fertilization experiments have failed to adequately demonstrate the fate of resulting phytoplankton population explosions and hence removal of carbon from the atmosphere to the deep ocean. Dr Peter Croot and colleagues from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association, Germany, present multiple lines of evidence from the European Iron Fertilization Experiment in the Southern Ocean that suggest carbon is exported to the deep ocean as a result of iron fertilization. The ocean iron fertilization experiments induce phytoplankton blooms, and sinking particles are tracked from the surface to the ocean floor. Taken together, their data indicate that at least half of the bloom biomass sank to below 1,000 metres, where it could potentially be stored for centuries. The international team on board the research vessel Polarstern fertilized a part of the closed core of a stable eddy of the Southern Ocean with dissolved iron which stimulated the growth of unicellular algae (phytoplankton). The team followed the development of the phytoplankton bloom for five weeks from its start to its decline phase. The maximum biomass attained by the bloom was higher than that of blooms stimulated by the previous 12 iron fertilization experiments. According to Professor Dr Victor Smetacek and Dr Christine Klaas from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association, this was all the more remarkable because the EIFEX bloom developed in a 100 metre deep mixed layer which is much deeper than hitherto believed to be the lower limit for bloom development.  The bloom was dominated by diatoms, a group of algae that require dissolved silicon to make their shells and are known to form large, slimy aggregates with high sinking rates at the end of their blooms. “We were able to prove that over 50 per cent of the plankton bloom sank below 1000 metre depth indicating that their carbon content can be stored in the deep ocean and in the underlying sediments for time scales of well over a century”, says Smetacek.  “These new findings highlight how differences between the species of phytoplankton that make up the community that formed the bloom can impact the sinking flux and transport of carbon as the bloom decays” adds Dr Croot. “This has implications for the biogeochemical cycling of other important elements in the ocean such as nitrogen, phosphorus and iron which are also part of the sinking material. In the context of Ireland’s marine areas, this work suggests a new area of focus for research targeting the end of phytoplankton blooms, rather than the traditional emphasis on the start of the spring bloom, in order to improve our overall understanding of how this economically important ecosystem functions.” Iron plays an important role in the climate system. It is involved in many biochemical processes such as photosynthesis and is hence an essential element for biological production in the oceans and, therefore, for CO2 absorption from the atmosphere. During past ice ages the air was cooler and drier than it is today and more iron-containing dust was transported from the continents to the ocean by the wind. The iron supply to marine phytoplankton was hence higher during the ice ages. This natural process is simulated in iron fertilisation experiments under controlled conditions. The EIFeX (European Iron Fertilisation Experiment) was a collaborative effort that involved representatives of 14 institutes and 3 companies from 7 European countries and the Republic of South Africa. -ends-

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Online Education for Parents of Children with Coughs and Colds

Online Education for Parents of Children with Coughs and Colds-image

Monday, 23 July 2012

The School of Psychology at NUI Galway is currently recruiting parents of young children to take part in an online education programme. The programme offers parents the opportunity to access information relating to the treatment of coughs and colds in their young children. It will focus on dispelling myths relating to over the counter treatments and provide instruction on how to cope with a sick child. The overall aim of the session is to inform and help parents.  Young children are at greatest risk of frequent colds, with children catching as many as seven to ten colds throughout the year, not just during the winter months. There are more than 200 different cold viruses, and signs and symptoms tend to vary greatly.  The online programme is part of a research project being carried out at NUI Galway by Dr Jane Walsh, a lecturer in psychology at NUI Galway, and PhD student Teresa Corbett. Parents will be in with the chance to win one of two prizes worth €50 in return for their participation in this study. The researchers are specifically interested in hearing from parents of children aged 3-6 years of age.   Dr Walsh said: “We all hate to see our children suffer with the symptoms of a cough or cold, so it is important for parents of young children to take the time to learn what can be done to ease those symptoms appropriately. This project is hoping to establish if online education systems may be delivered effectively to help these individuals. Busy parents can simply log on and learn how a cold can be managed effectively.” “This online setting is particularly fitting for parents as it may be accessed at their convenience, fitting in with their hectic daily schedule”, added Dr Walsh. “The programme layout is easy to use and does not take long for busy individuals who would like to log on and learn more about these everyday symptoms in their child.”  The programme is designed to be accessible to all people who have a computer. GPs, friends and family are encouraged to refer interested individuals to participate. For further information, please contact Teresa Corbett, at, or go to -ends-

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NUI Galway Support 2012 Umbro Galway Cup

NUI Galway Support 2012 Umbro Galway Cup -image

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

NUI Galway is delighted to support the 2012 Umbro Galway Cup which is now regarded as one of the leading underage soccer tournaments in Europe. Attracting teams from nine countries across the globe including Spain, Sweden, Canada, Finland Russia and Israel, the 2012 tournament is no exception with 49 teams competing. Almost 1,100 soccer players and officials will be in Galway for the four-day tournament running from 8-11 August. Matches will take place in Drom Soccer Park in Rahoon, while the teams will stay in NUI Galway’s campus accommodation, Corrib Village, and avail of the campus catering facilities in the University restaurants. Speaking at the launch of NUI Galway’s sponsorship of the 2012 Tournament, Dr Jim Browne said: “NUI Galway is delighted to support the Umbro Galway Cup which gives Irish players a chance to compete at the highest echelons in soccer at a young age. We have a distinguished tradition of sport on our campus and we recognise that participation in this competition is an enriching experience for young soccer players. I am delighted to see that over 30 Irish teams will compete and on a personal note I’m looking forward to welcoming Manchester City players and officials to campus as I’m a keen Man City supporter!” Salthill Devon Club Chairman, Ollie Daniels, said: “The participation of overseas teams including leading English, Spanish, Russian and Norwegian clubs is a reflection of the standard of the tournament. Obviously this presents a fantastic opportunity for young Irish players and as it exposes them to different styles of football and is a huge learning experience for all.” Established over eight years ago this annual tournament is going from strength to strength.  Corrib Village and other NUI Galway campus facilities have been used right from the start and this successful partnership has aided the development of the competition. Over 3,000 meals are served on campus on a daily basis through out the competition with a particular focus on healthy options. Former Ireland U15 and U16 Manager, Vincent Butler, said: “The Galway Cup is an excellent competition. Apart from the first class facilities and single location, which makes it so convenient to view, the standard has greatly improved each year. It’s an ideal situation to observe and discover talented aspiring young underage internationals, several of whom I have selected to play for Ireland.” -ENDS-

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Deadline Approaches for Postgraduate Scholarships at NUI Galway

Deadline Approaches for Postgraduate Scholarships at NUI Galway-image

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Pictured receiving the first of the Postgraduate Scholarships on offer from NUI Galway for 2012 are Kim Merrifield (left) and Richard Iyede (right) with NUI Galway Registrar and Deputy President Nollaig Mac Congáil (centre). Kimberly has been awarded the Scholarship to take up the MA in Community Development, while Richard will start the MApplSc (Enterprise Systems) in September of this year.  NUI Galway announced details of the new scholarships scheme for postgraduate students for 2012 following cuts to maintenance grants for postgraduate students in Budget 2011. In total, 100 new scholarships will be awarded at €2,000 per student before the start of the new academic year. Deadline for scholarship applications is Friday, 10 August. The new initiative is open to postgraduate students, applying for a fulltime Taught Masters programme due to commence in autumn 2012. Scholarships will be awarded to students accepted on a fulltime taught masters and who fulfill the criteria as outlined by the University. Details of the new Postgraduate Scholarships include: 100 scholarships at €2,000 per student For students who have been accepted on to full-time Taught Masters programmes in 2012/13  Who have a First Class Honours undergraduate degree  And who were in receipt of a Local Authority Higher Education Grant for their undergraduate degree For more information on postgraduate programmes and the scholarships scheme visit or phone 091 492844 or email -Ends-

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Award-winning DERI Researcher Looks at How Decisions are Made on Wikipedia

Award-winning DERI Researcher Looks at How Decisions are Made on Wikipedia-image

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A study of the decision making processes fuelling changes to Wikipedia is underway at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) in NUI Galway. With almost four million articles, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous Internet volunteers and is the sixth most visited site on the web today. DERI-based PhD researcher Jodi Schneider is investigating the decision factors and arguments used in the often-complex debates around article deletion. In recognition of this research, the New Jersey native has been awarded the prestigious Zipf fellowship with an accompanying cash award of $10,000. Sponsored by the US Council on Library and Information Resources, the award is given annually to acknowledge one outstanding postgraduate student who shows exceptional promise for leadership and technical achievement in information management. Jodi Schneider explains her work: “Under the calm exterior of the Wikipedia website lies a seething hive of activity where an average of 7,000 articles are deleted on a weekly basis. Deleting articles is beneficial as it helps to remove biased, irrelevant, and factually incorrect content from an encyclopedia where anyone can write anything. Significantly, around 500 of these deletions require community discussion. What interests me is how are these decisions made, and who makes them?” Schneider’s work will support Wikipedia editors in determining what content belongs on the site. Her research proposes the streamlining of 70% of debates on article deletion based on based on four factors: Notability, Sources, Maintenance, and Bias. According to Professor Stefan Decker, Director of DERI at NUI Galway: “The focus of our research here at DERI is on networking the vast amounts of data and knowledge which exist in the online world, making it more accessible and understandable. Jodi’s work is a great example - Jodi is investigating the different ways how people argue online to achieve a consensus, enabling us to understand how people resolve arguments online. The Zipf fellowship and her work with Wikipedia are testament to her promising research.” DERI is one of the leading international web science research institutes interlinking technologies, information and people to advance business and benefit society.  Established in 2003 with funding from the Science Foundation Ireland, it is home to over 140 researchers, including 43 PhD students. -ends- ENDS

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NUI Galway Law Lecturers Appointed to Law Reform Commission

NUI Galway Law Lecturers Appointed to Law Reform Commission -image

Thursday, 26 July 2012

NUI Galway law lecturer Tom O’Malley has been appointed by the Government to the Law Reform Commission. Donncha O Connell, also lecturer in law at the University, has been reappointed to the Commission. The Law Reform Commission is an independent, statutory body established under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975. Its purpose is to keep the law under review and to make recommendations for law reform in keeping with the changing nature of Irish society. Its scope was expanded in 2006 to include new projects on statute law restatement and the legislation directory. Tom O'Malley is a Senior Lecturer in Law and a practising barrister specialising in judicial review. He holds three first-class honours degrees from NUI Galway as well as the LL.M. degree from Yale University. He was a graduate fellow at Yale Law School in 1986-1987 and since then has taught at NUI Galway.  He was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford Centre for Criminology in 1992-1993 and earlier this year was Visiting Professor of Criminology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He has taught many different law subjects to degree level over the past 25 years including Constitutional Law, Contract, Land Law, Equity, Criminal Law, Criminology, Administrative Law and Evidence.  He currently offers two courses on the LL.M. (Public Law) programme, one on sentencing and penal policy and the other on criminal process. His main research interests are in the area of criminal law and criminal justice and he is the author of leading Irish treatises on sex offences, sentencing and criminal procedure. He has served on several committees and working groups at national and international level and is at present a member of the Steering Committee for the Irish Sentencing Information System. O’Connell was the Dean of Law at NUI Galway from 2005-2008 and he continues to teach European Human Rights and Constitutional Law in the School of Law as well as teaching postgraduate students in Processes of Law Reform and Advocacy, Activism & Public Interest Law. He has extensive experience on European human rights bodies having served as the Irish member of the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights established by the EU Commission in 2002 and as the senior Irish member of FRALEX, the legal expert group that advised the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights based in Vienna. He spent the academic year 2009-2010 as a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights LSE and is the editor of the Irish Human Rights Law Review published by Clarus Press. Donncha was the first full-time Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) from 1999-2002 and he has, in the past, been a board member of the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) Ltd and Amnesty International-Ireland. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the London-based NGO, INTERIGHTS – The International Centre for the Legal Protection of Rights. He is also a member of the Legal Aid Board.

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NUI Galway Student and Alumnus Compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games

NUI Galway Student and Alumnus Compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games-image

Thursday, 26 July 2012

London today welcomed the world to the Games of the 30th Olympiad. Among the 2,000 athletes competing in 47 events are NUI Galway student and alumnus, Paul Hession and Olive Loughnane. Dr Jim Browne, NUI Galway President, commented: “We are delighted and honored to have students and alumni of NUI Galway representing Ireland on the world stage at the 2012 Olympic Games. Paul and Olive are world-class athletes of outstanding talent and are excellent representatives of the current generation of Irish sporting stars. On behalf of the University, I would like to wish them both the very best of luck and every success in London”. Paul Hession, Ireland’s fastest man is from Athenry and is a medicine student at NUI Galway. Twice a World Student Games medallist, Paul was awarded an NUI Galway Sports Scholarship for Athletics in 2000. Paul received the NUI Galway Sports Awards for Athletics four years in a row from 2002 – 2005.  At the Beijing Olympics, he narrowly missed out on a final place in the 200 metres and in 2010 made Irish athletics history as the first Irishman to make a 200m European sprint final. In early July he won the Irish 100m title and followed this with an excellent 20.54 for 200m in Lucerne - the fastest time by an Irishman this year. Olive Loughnane is from Loughrea, Co. Galway and is a graduate of NUI Galway.  Olive represented NUI Galway Athletic Club from 1993 to 1995 and was selected for a Sports Award in 1996. She also represented the Irish universities on numerous occasions and was a member of the National Race Walking Squad.  She became the first female Irish Walker to win a senior title at the British AAA’s Championship in Birmingham. A silver medal at the World Championship in 2009 and winning one of the rounds of the World Race Walking Challenge in 2011, Olive qualified for the Olympics by finishing first in Slovakia on a time of 1 hour 32 minutes and 40 seconds, a full minute ahead of her nearest rival. Her times have continuously improved over the years and this is her fourth Olympic Games. The London 2012 Olympic Games will commence today (Friday, 27 July) with the opening ceremony and will continue until 12 August, 2012. ENDS

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How to Survive an Ice Age

How to Survive an Ice Age-image

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Researchers have uncovered how animals in Antarctica managed to survive glacial periods thousands of years ago when sea-ice encroached on their habitats. DNA evidence indicates that sea creatures used a variety of techniques, from surviving in the deep sea, to retreating into pools of unfrozen seawater. Scientists hope that by looking back in time it will help predict the likely impact of global warming on the Southern Ocean. Natural climate cycles have caused massive glaciations on 40,000 and 100,000 year cycles over the past five million years. At times of maximum glaciation, sea-ice extended out into the Southern Ocean blocking sunlight from the surface waters, preventing phytoplankton from photosynthesising and hence cutting the food chain off at its source. Additionally, massive glaciers and ice-sheets extended far out onto the continental shelf, scoring the sea-floor and destroying the habitat of many animals. Biologists have never understood how animals in the seas surrounding Antarctica survived these Pliocene-Pleistocene glacial cycles. Was all the fauna of the Southern Ocean destroyed? Were animals able to seek refuge in the deep sea and recolonise from there?  Or did marine animals seek refuge outside of the Southern Ocean and recolonise Antarctica from other Oceans? In a paper published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, researchers at National University of Ireland Galway and LaTrobe University in Australia provide the answer. Dr Louise Allcock, a zoologist from National University of Ireland Galway’s Ryan Institute, explains. “We found the answer in the DNA of animals that are found in the Southern Ocean today. I’ve been studying Antarctic octopuses for many years and looking at the patterns of variation in their DNA.  As I looked at other people's research on other animals, to compare their findings to my own, I noticed that there were some consistent patterns.  One of the patterns we saw was that some animals had very limited variation, with large numbers of individuals having exactly the same DNA sequence at a given gene region.  This is consistent with a population bottleneck - i.e., a massive reduction in the number of individuals in a short space of time. We can tie this with the survival of a tiny population on the continental shelf during glacial maxima. And, in fact, there's evidence from glaciology and other physical sciences that 'polynyas' - small areas free of sea ice - did persist during glacial maxima.” This wasn’t the only pattern that researchers found however.  By examining all the available published research they were able to identify at least four different patterns, each one relating to a different survival and recolonisation strategy. This improved understanding of survival mechanisms and the interpretation of molecular data will help scientists predict the likely impact of global warming on the Southern Ocean. According to Dr Jan Strugnell, of the Department of Genetics, at La Trobe University: “There has been a recent marked increase in the number of studies using DNA to try and better understand the processes that have shaped the evolution of different animal groups that live in the Southern Ocean.  By looking at all of these studies together, and taking into account their life history characteristics, we were able to detect patterns which give clues to how animal lineages have survived glacial cycles in the Southern Ocean.  The different patterns give signatures for survival in ice free refugia on the continental shelf for some animal lineages and for survival in deep sea refugia in others.” ENDS

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