Seals With Sensors on Their Heads Gather Data in the Antarctic

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A seal with a sensor on its head sits in Antarctica. Courtesy of Daniel Costa

Seals have been working for humans while they go about their lives in Antarctica as part of the Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole consortium, the findings of which were made public this week.

The research, which began in 2004, involved putting sensors on seals' heads that collect information about global warming, ice cover and weather forecasting, the AFP reported. More than 1,000 seals were involved in the project.

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Two joyous seals, one with a sensor. Dr. Clive R. McMahon/Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Integrated Marine Observing System

"They are taking data from places where there has been virtually no data before. It's unique," Mike Fedak, head of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St. Andrew's University and developer of the sensor, told the AFP. "This data can be used in lots of different ways including for measuring the movement of glaciers, which impacts on the world's oceans."

As a result of the project, more than 400,000 environmental profiles have been created, each representing a single seal dive. Some of these dives go as deep as 6,890 feet.

Humans would have had a very hard time gaining access to some of the areas seals can reach easily. While the findings have been invaluable for the scientific community, it is unclear how much the seals enjoyed having the sensors on their heads.

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A seal lounges with a sensor on its head. Courtesy of Daniel Costa