Purple sea urchins evolve in a flash to survive growing acidity

Mushrooming carbon-dioxide levels are leading to caustic ocean conditions, but some species, like the purple sea urchin, have the ability to adapt to this changing environment, a new study shows.

Researchers grew purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) — which are echinoderms (a group that also includes sea stars and brittle stars) with spiky protrusions made of calcium carbonate — in the lab. The invertebrates were grown under conditions mimicking expected future levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

In response to high carbon dioxide levels, the urchins showed substantial changes in the proportion of genes involved in regulating their cells’ pH (the degree of acidity) and skeletal development….

Tanya Lewis, LiveScience, 9 April 2013. Full article.

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