Future of Jumbo Squid Questioned

The effects of climate change on the ocean could squeeze the jumbo squid out of its habitat, a new study suggests.

As carbon dioxide from power plants, automobiles and other sources has built up in Earth’s atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, nearly half of it has been absorbed by the ocean, gradually turning the waters more acidic.

At the same time, the ocean is heating up, bringing the boundary of the “oxygen minimum layer” up closer to the surface — that’s the depth below which the amount of oxygen in the water is too low for some sea creatures to survive.

Scientists have known that an acidifying ocean poses a threat to corals and other organisms that have calcium carbonate skeletons; it will be harder to form these skeletons in a more acidic environment.

But the effects of lower (or more acidic) pH levels on other marine organisms aren’t well understood.

Rui Rosa of the Universidade de Lisboa in Portugal and Brad Seibel of the University of Rhode Island looked at the effects of ocean acidification on the Humboldt squid, Dosidicus gigas (aka jumbo squid), which dwells in the Eastern Tropical Pacific from Tierra del Fuego to California. The situation is not good. In this part of the ocean, temperatures are already high and oxygen levels low and climate changes in the region are expected to be pronounced.

The results of their study are detailed in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Andrea Thompson, Live Science, 15 December 2008. Full article.

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