Shrink-wrapped Shrimps

By Dave Armstrong - 28 Sep 2011 12:50:0 GMT
Shrink-wrapped Shrimps

Global Warming has been so often criticised and praised by mice and men. Now we have been privileged to have the Queen's opinion. Well, the Queen Mary's (University of London, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences) version.

If you've reared tadpoles or caterpillars (haven't we all), you may have noticed they tend to grow more quickly in warmer water. It's double the rate for every 10°C. rise in temperature, if you measure it. Dr Andrew Hirst and his team have now discovered more about this mechanism. Funded by the NERC, shrimp-like copepods of the genus Calanus were typically studied over 40 years of research, along with several of their Copepod relatives. Calanus propinquus is possibly the most common of planktonic animals, swimming near the surface in the Antarctic, as shown above (top image).

Their development always speeded up more than their actual growth rate, resulting in smaller adult shrimps. As growth rate simply checks how fast mass is gained, the fully adult small copepods had simply "metamorphosed to maturity" with smaller organs. Apparently ecologists have disagreed with the present team in the past by claiming the two rates were indeed connected. The gathering together of all of this data does indicate that there is no connection, which is a vital clue for future work on global warming, the team claim. For example, the giant organism developing at 35°C. could be the sibling of a normal creature in an Arctic 5°C. Then consider -

how might it feed;

how it would affect its consumers and its food in its food web;

what effect would the environment have on it or vice-versa.

Next, we are forced to the conclusion that shrinking shrimps could be produced by global warming, because of speedy development in warmer water. These smaller adults would -

feed less, leaving a surplus of plant plankton;

starve its consumers in the food web, with multifarious possibilities;

be affected and affect the general environment by their smaller "profile".

We must hope that more such studies will clear up important ecological concepts by collating valuable old data into new studies with such valuable conclusions.

Top Image Credit: Calanus propinquus © Pete Lens, British Antarctic Survey

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