Image of the Month: March 2017

Pteropods: Butterflies of the Ocean

With its foot developed into two wings, the “sea butterfly” flutters through the ocean. Even food is taken up along the way in form of a net that is periodically woven from a viscous fluid and digested together with its content. Plankton to go. Or: on the fly.

This active existence requires a fair amount of energy. And when the ocean continues to acidify, the pteropods might be overexerted. Experiments indicate that they will not be able to build their shells under future conditions, since they are made of aragonite, an especially soluble form of calcium carbonate. In upwelling regions where more acidified water occasionally reaches the surface, scientists caught pteropods with deformed, thinner or porous shells.

Solvin Zankl’s microscope picture of the planktonic snail that is only a few millimetres in size belongs to the photo exhibition “Ocean Acidification: The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem” – a contribution of the German research network BIOACID to the Science Year 2016*17 – Seas and Oceans. The exhibition and the complementing website present many other marine creatures and illustrates how scientists investigate their reactions on ocean acidification.

In video portraits produced exclusively for this project, BIOACID members report about their work. Dr. Silke Lischka, marine biologist at GEOMAR, explains why pteropods in the Arctic are especially in danger – and why she enjoys watching them.



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