Pteropods are tiny snails. They are known as sea butterflies and live in the oceans surrounding Antarctica. The British Antarctic Survey has just reported the First evidence of ocean acidification affecting live marine creatures in the Southern Ocean in a study being published in Nature Geoscience. This is super-bad news since the tiny snails are at the base for the ocean’s entire food chain.
The shells of the sea butterflies are being dissolved by acidification caused by increasing ocean acidity produced from dissolved carbon dioxide. This severe snail situation was observed in collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) during surveys in the southern oceans several years earlier. The snails are difficult to observe, their shells are mostly colorless, very fragile, usually less than a half an inch long, and often so fine they are transparent. However, the shell is calcareous, ie made of calcium, which is dissolved by acids. Ocean acidification is caused by the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide emitted as a result of fossil fuel burning.
According to various editors: “Sea Butterflies are about the size of a lentil, are eaten by various marine species, including a wide variety of fish that are, in turn, consumed by penguins to polar bears. They are consumed by sea birds, whales, and commercially important fish.”
Antarctic Sea Butterflies Sea Butterfly (Limacina helicina)
(credit: British Antarctic Survey) (credit: NOAA)
Tiny things matter---sometimes critically so. WHB