Sea creatures ‘dissolving’ in warming Pacific ocean – study
The mixture of warming waters and ocean acidification is proving a lethal combination for many sea creatures who are dissolving in the hostile conditions, according to a new study.
The study, from the University of California, found that marine animals are dissolving in Pacific waters off the Northern California coast.
“We thought there would be some thinning or reduced mass,” said lead author Dan Swezey of the study, which saw ocean conditions recreated in a lab with cloned tiny invertebrates, known as bryozoans. “But whole features just dissolved practically before our eyes.”
The bryozoans were exposed to various combinations of dissolved carbon dioxide, warmer temperatures and food concentrations – with large numbers of their skeletons disappearing in as few as two months.
The scientists also found that bryozoans, when consuming less food, began building higher levels of magnesium into their skeletons, which made them especially susceptible to ocean acidification.
During the experiment researchers learned that bryozoans, which grow in connected colonies, attempted to survive by shutting down parts of themselves which were experiencing ocean acidification, redirecting their energy to new growth. However, the creatures could not outpace the dissolution.
“They were trying to grow but were dissolving at the same time,” said Swezey.
The findings are cause for “growing concern as oceans continue to warm and acidify,” according the paper’s researchers, especially for calcified marine animals.
"Marine life is increasingly faced with many changes at once," said co-author Sanford, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology.
"For bryozoans, their response to warmer temperature makes them unexpectedly vulnerable to ocean acidification. The question now is whether other marine species might respond in a similar way."
The study’s findings were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences journal.