Tag Archives: marine life

Microplastics make marine worms sick

Tiny bits of plastic rubbish could spell big trouble for marine life, starting with the worms, say a team of researchers from the University of Exeter and Plymouth University who report their evidence in a pair of studies in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on December 2.

The marine worms play a key ecological role as an important source of food for other animals.

Work by Stephanie Wright from Biosciences at the University of Exeter found that if ocean sediments are heavily contaminated with microplastics, marine lugworms eat less and their energy levels suffer. A separate report, from Mark Anthony Browne on work performed at Plymouth University, shows that ingesting microplastic can also reduce the health of lugworms by delivering harmful chemicals, including hydrocarbons, antimicrobials and flame retardants to them. (more…)

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Movement of marine life follows speed and direction of climate change

Scientists expect climate change and warmer oceans to push the fish that people rely on for food and income into new territory. Predictions of where and when species will relocate, however, are based on broad expectations about how animals will move and have often not played out in nature. New research based at Princeton University shows that the trick to more precise forecasts is to follow local temperature changes.

The researchers report in the journal Science the first evidence that sea creatures consistently keep pace with “climate velocity,” or the speed and direction in which changes such as ocean temperature move. They compiled 43 years of data related to the movement of 128 million animals from 360 species living around North America, including commercial staples such as lobster, shrimp and cod. They found that 70 percent of shifts in animals’ depth and 74 percent of changes in latitude correlated with regional-scale fluctuations in ocean temperature. (more…)

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Sandy’s Underwater Sandscapes

UD researchers studying ‘fingerprint’ left on seafloor by Hurricane Sandy

Beneath the 20-foot waves that crested off Delaware’s coast during Hurricane Sandy, thrashing waters reshaped the floor of the ocean, churning up fine sand and digging deep ripples into the seabed. Fish, crustaceans and other marine life were blasted with sand as the storm sculpted new surfaces underwater.

UD scientists cued up their instruments to document the offshore conditions before, during and after Sandy’s arrival to scrutinize the differences and better predict the environmental impact of future storms. (more…)

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Genetic Patterns of Deep-Sea Coral Provide Insights into Evolution of Marine Life

Patterns Also Shed Light on How Environmental Disturbances Affect Aquatic Organisms

The ability of deep-sea corals to harbor a broad array of marine life, including commercially important fish species, make these habitat-forming organisms of immediate interest to conservationists, managers, and scientists. Understanding and protecting corals requires knowledge of the historical processes that have shaped their biodiversity and biogeography.

While little is known about these processes, new research described in the journal Molecular Ecology helps elucidate the historical patterns of deep-sea coral migration and gene flow, coincident with oceanic circulation patterns and events. The investigators propose a scenario that could explain the observed evolutionary and present-day patterns in certain coral species. The findings can help scientists determine how climate change and other global processes have affected ocean habitats in the past and how they might do so in the future. (more…)

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Why Are Coastal Salt Marshes Falling Apart?

Too many nutrients can cause extensive loss of marshes

Salt marshes have been disintegrating and dying over the past two decades along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and other highly developed coastlines without anyone fully understanding why.

This week in the journal Nature, scientist Linda Deegan of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Mass., and colleagues report that nutrients–such as nitrogen and phosphorus from septic and sewer systems and lawn fertilizers–can cause salt marsh loss.

“Salt marshes are a critical interface between the land and sea,” Deegan says. “They provide habitat for fish, birds and shellfish, protect coastal cities from storms and take nutrients out of the water from upland areas, which protect coastal bays from over-pollution.” (more…)

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Scientists Uncover Vast Differences in Earth’s Polar Ocean Microbial Communities

ANN ARBOR— An international team of scientists, including a University of Michigan graduate student, has demonstrated that a clear difference exists between the marine microbial communities in the Southern and Arctic oceans, contributing to a better understanding of the biodiversity of marine life at the poles.

The most comprehensive comparison of microbial diversity at both of Earth’s polar oceans showed that about 75 percent of the organisms at each pole are different. This insight sheds light on newly recognized biodiversity patterns and reinforces the importance of studying Earth’s polar regions in the face of a changing climate. And it highlights the need for further research on the impacts of sea ice, seasonal shifts and freshwater input in both regions. (more…)

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Global Extinction: Gradual Doom as Bad as Abrupt

*In “The Great Dying” 250 million years ago, the end came slowly*

The deadliest mass extinction of all took a long time to kill 90 percent of Earth’s marine life–and it killed in stages–according to a newly published report.

It shows that mass extinctions need not be sudden events.

Thomas Algeo, a geologist at the University of Cincinnati, and 13 colleagues have produced a high-resolution look at the geology of a Permian-Triassic boundary section on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. (more…)

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