Elephant Seal With a 'Hat' to Assist NASA in Understanding Ocean Currents Around Antarctica

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In a first, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has roped in an Elephant Seal to help in understanding how oceans and currents are storing energy as the climate warms.

Scientist Lia Siegelman is studying the ocean around Antarctica - one that has flippers and bears a passing resemblance to Jabba the Hut, said a study published on NASA’s Global Climate Change.

Siegelman is acquiring data from a single tagged southern elephant seal to study small-scale ocean features in a little-known part of the ocean around Antarctica.

The tagged Seal looks like it is wearing a hat, but that is because of the headpiece consists of an antenna plus a sensor that tracks the temperature of the ocean water.

Elephant seals spend around 9 to 10 months of a year in the sea. Furthermore, they can continually dive to depths as great as 3,300 feet and dive 80 times on an average in a day.

Siegelman, who is a visiting research student from the University of Western Brittany in Brest, France, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said, "Even when they sleep, they dive - they float down like a leaf.”

While the tagged seal is underwater it collects data from the entire top layer of the Southern Ocean.

As per the researchers, global warming changes important ocean currents in ways that affect Antarctic melt rates, any additional data from these dangerous, remote seas is likely to be valuable.