Scientists years ago figured out that a group of tiny snail-like sea creatures crucial to marine food webs may one day be an early victim of changing ocean chemistry.
Researchers predicted that pteropods, shelled animals known as sea butterflies, could begin dissolving by 2038 as human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions begin souring the seas in a process known as ocean acidification.
The shells of some marine snails are dissolving as the seas around Antarctica become more acidic, threatening the food chain, according to a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Oceans soak up about a quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year; as CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase from the burning of fossil fuels, so do ocean levels, making seas more acidic. This acidification threatens coral reefs, marine ecosystems and wildlife.
Peering into the microscope, Alan Barton thought the baby oysters looked normal, except for one thing: They were dead.
Slide after slide, the results were the same. The entire batch of 100 million larvae at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery had perished.
In the United States and other coastal nations, ocean acidification has quickly become a common topic of scientific research. Ocean acidification also has become a public concern as news headlines warn of this potentially threatening byproduct of global climate change.