Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Small Sea Creatures May Be The 'Canaries In The Coal Mine' Of Climate Change

Date:
February 23, 2008
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
As oceans warm and become more acidic, ocean creatures are undergoing severe stress and entire food webs are at risk, according to molecular ecologists. Biologists have just returned from a research mission to Antarctica where they collected pteropods, tiny marine snails the size of a lentil, that one biologist refers to as the "potato chip" of the oceans because they are eaten widely by so many species.

Microscope photo of a pteropod (pelagic snail).
Credit: Photo by D.Forcucci

As oceans warm and become more acidic, ocean creatures are undergoing severe stress and entire food webs are at risk, according to scientists at a press briefing this morning at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Gretchen Hofmann, associate professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has just returned from a research mission to Antarctica where she collected pteropods, tiny marine snails the size of a lentil, that she refers to as the "potato chip" of the oceans because they are eaten widely by so many species.*

Pteropods are eaten by fish that are in turn consumed by other animals, such as penguins. As these small creatures are stressed by an increasingly acidic ocean, due to the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, they are less able to cope with a warmer ocean.

"These animals are not charismatic but they are talking to us just as much as penguins or polar bears," said Hofmann. "They are harbingers of change. It's possible by 2050 they may not be able to make a shell anymore. If we lose these organisms, the impact on the food chain will be catastrophic."

Hofmann is a molecular ecologist who studies how genes go off and on as certain marine animals work to make their calcium carbonate shells from the seawater they live in. She characterized her recent trip to Antarctica as an urgent research mission.

She has performed extensive studies of the sea urchin that lives in the kelp forests of California. Sea urchins are a vital part of the food web and play a major economic role in California fisheries, since the roe of the sea urchin is a valuable sushi called "uni."

Hofmann explained that as marine invertebrates deal with increasing acidity, the larvae have to "re-tune" their metabolism in order to still make a shell. But this is done at a cost. The physiological changes that are a response to the acidity make the animals less able to withstand warmer waters, and they are smaller.

"These observations suggest that the 'double jeopardy' situation ---- warming and acidifying seas ---- will be a complex environment for future marine organisms," she said.

Hofmann is studying levels of carbon dioxide that would result from what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts would occur if humanity continues on a "business as usual" scenario projected out to the year 2100.

*The National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs funded the expedition.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Small Sea Creatures May Be The 'Canaries In The Coal Mine' Of Climate Change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080217102122.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2008, February 23). Small Sea Creatures May Be The 'Canaries In The Coal Mine' Of Climate Change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080217102122.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Small Sea Creatures May Be The 'Canaries In The Coal Mine' Of Climate Change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080217102122.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

805-Pound Shark Caught Off The Coast Of Florida

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) One Florida fisherman caught a 805-pound shark off the coast of Florida earlier this month. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

AP (Apr. 21, 2014) Breakfast is now being served with a side of sticker shock. The cost of morning staples like bacon, coffee and orange juice is on the rise because of global supply problems. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins