Pacific shellfish to invade Atlantic as ice melts

August 10th, 2008 - 1:29 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic

Washington, Aug 10 (ANI): North Pacific shellfishincluding snails and other mollusks may make their way towards the North Atlantic as global warming increases water temperatures, claims a new study.

Scientists said that if the Arctic turns ice-free by 2050, conditions would be similar to those during the mid-Pliocene, and the mollusk migration would resume.

Geerat Vermeij, a geologist at the University of California at Davis said that this would further starve the ocean of phytoplanktonthe floating plants that mollusks need to survive.

He also said that the phytoplankton would make the Arctic look like a highway lined with fast-food restaurants, allowing the mollusks to eat their way from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

“You provide enough nutrition both for the larval stages and, in fact, for fast-growing adults, which [have] a high demand for easily available food,” The National Geographic quoted him, as saying.

Working with his California Academy of Sciences colleague Peter Roopnarine, Vermeij said that the invasion will be a one-way phenomenon, where mollusks, as well as algae, fish, barnacles, and other creatures would move from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

He said that the migration will move from the Pacific through the Bering Strait as more water flows in that direction rather than the other way.

Moreover, The North Pacific also joins marine life that is well adapted to fight for survival in the sparse conditions of the Arctic. On the other hand, North Atlantic marine life is less diverse and less fit.

However, he said that the invasion might still cause extinctions in the North Atlantic. But there is no evidence of invasion-spurred extinctions from a similar migration in the mid-Pliocene

Generally, the scientists said, that the oceans have plenty of room for native species to hide from the invaders. In case some are killed, there would still be a possibility of survival for at least a few.

They also think that the invasion will enrich North Atlantic biodiversity by adding new species and creating new hybrid species as well.

The migration was predicted in a commentary published in the latest issue of the journal Science. (ANI)

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