Scientists have warned that among marine life, small sea creatures are the most at risk due to global warming, and their reduced numbers might bring about a catastrophic impact on the food chain.
This statement was made by scientists at a press briefing at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.
AdvertisementThe scientists have said that as oceans warm and become more acidic, smaller ocean creatures are undergoing severe stress and entire food webs are at risk as a result.
According to Gretchen Hofmann, associate professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, one example of such endangered marine life are pteropods, tiny marine snails the size of a lentil.
Hofmann refers to these animals as the "potato chip" of the oceans because they are eaten widely by so many species.
"These animals are not charismatic but they are talking to us just as much as penguins or polar bears," said Hofmann. "They are harbingers of change. It's possible by 2050 they may not be able to make a shell anymore. If we lose these organisms, the impact on the food chain will be catastrophic," she added.
According to Hofmann, as marine invertebrates deal with increasing acidity, the larvae have to "re-tune" their metabolism in order to still make a shell.
"But this is done at a cost. The physiological changes that are a response to the acidity make the animals less able to withstand warmer waters, and they are smaller," she said.
"These observations suggest that the 'double jeopardy' situation -- warming and acidifying seas -- will be a complex environment for future marine organisms," Hofmann added.