Sea snails offer hope for marine species to survive in acidic oceans: research

CANBERRA, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) — Researchers from Australia’s University of Adelaide have discovered a colony of sea snails in New Zealand which have been able to thrive in ocean water which is 30 times more acidic than regular seawater.

Described as a “remarkable” discovery which gives hope to the prospect of acidic ocean survival for a number of other ocean species, the scientists found the colony thriving close to a carbon dioxide “vent” near Te Puia o Whakaari, or White Island, an offshore volcanic island in New Zealand.

The research team, made up of Dr. Zoe Doubleday, Professor Ivan Nagelkerken and Professor Sean Connell, said the sea snails, which were considerable smaller than those living in non-acidic water, were also found in greater abundance, raising questions about the life cycles of the snails in the acidic water.

“These snails were five times more abundant at the vent, compared to neighboring control habitats. However, they were also smaller,” the research said.

“(They also) have a restricted range of movement, which suggests that they live under these conditions for their entire lives.”

“The existence of these snails demonstrates that calcifying animals can build their shells under the acidic and corrosive conditions caused by extreme carbon dioxide enrichment.”

The researchers said that the conditions found at White Island “well exceeded” the “worst-case” climate change predictions, with worldwide ocean PH expected to fall from the current reading of 8.1 to around 7.8 by 2100.

“The existence of these herbivorous snails suggests that, because they can survive acidic extremes, they have an adaptive capacity to cope with ocean acidification,” the research said.

“This discovery opens opportunities to explore new perspectives on species’ resistance to ocean acidification and the ecological and evolutionary processes that confer that resistance.”

Xinhua, 24 October 2017. Article.

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