Sea Urchins Adapt to Ocean Acidification

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Since the oceans are becoming more acidic, there is less calcium available for the sea animals. Although this is devastating to the animals that need this nutrient for building their skeleton,they start to change in order to survive. A marine bioligist by the name of, Melissa Pespeni tested the Purple Sea Urchin to find out to what extent evolution can keep pace with the changing environment. To their surprise, they found that the more acidic water had no apparent negative effect on the development of the larval skeletons. They did discover that the genetics of this urchin began to change, In particular, genes related to growth, lipid metabolism and the movement of ions into and out of cells showed significantly more changes in urchins reared under high-acidity conditions. All these types of genes help cells cope with increased acidity which shows it is a product of  natural selection.

“If there’s any organism we would expect to be able to adapt to something like this, it would be the purple sea urchin, because they have evolved in such a variable environment,” says Pespeni.

On a positive note,  on the climate change front, for a change: some marine organisms may be able to adapt surprisingly well to ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.

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