Stories tagged ocean biology

Jun
27
2008

Grickle grackle: grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle.
Grickle grackle: grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle grickle grackle.Courtesy Kevin Cole
The age of the crustaceans is upon us, and, like the elves before us, it is time for we chordates to fade into legend. Though some of us may linger in this fallen world, much that was good will have been lost. The air will be full of, like, clicking, and eyestalks will be all the rage, and everything will smell like ammonia.

And, oh yes, there will be tentacles. And before you get all sassy about crustaceans not having tentacles, shut your word-holes and open your listen-orifices—I ent just talking about crustaceans. In this damp, horrifying future, the crustaceans will be accompanied by their nightmare 6th cousins: the mollusks.

It’s the presence of mollusca that is most frightening to me. I can not imagine a crustacean that couldn’t be handled with a claw hammer, but mollusks…they’re something else entirely. Huge, clever brains, instant biological camouflage, boneless bodies, marine gigantism, beaks…

As ocean temperatures rise with global climate change, many marine populations are predicted to shift dramatically from fish to crabs, lobsters, and squid.

Fish populations have also been observed switching from cold water to warm water species, away from bottom feeders, and trending towards smaller species.

The whole thing, it’s thought, is primarily the result of a change in where in the ocean plankton is being consumed; small, warm-water species of fish are eating the plankton (itty bitty sea life) higher up in the water column, so less plankton settles down for bottom feeding fish. As the bottom feeders die off, invertebrates like mollusks and crustaceans move in.

Warming oceans are probably the main cause here, but researchers say that over fishing could be a contributor as well. As larger fish become less common due to fishing, there are fewer predators for small fish, which eat off the plankton high in the water table…

Prepare for the worst. Remember: claw hammers for crustacea, marshmallow skewers for mollusca, and an acceptance of inevitable death by pinchers for the rest of us.