Warming Oceanic Temperatures cause Largest Movement of Marine Species in Two Million Years

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The overall rise in ocean temperature has led to the largest movement of marine species in two to three million years, according to scientists.  The rise in oceanic temperatures during the most recent summers has melted enough ice that it has created a passage from the Pacific Ocean to the North Atlantic, allowing plankton, fish, and whales into unfamiliar territory.

The discovery has sparked fears delicate marine food webs could be unbalanced and lead to some species becoming extinct as competition for food between the native species and the invaders stretches resources.

The scientists, who have been collaborating on the Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystems Research project, found the plankton species, called Neodenticula seminae, traveled into the Atlantic through a passage through the Arctic sea ice around that has opened up a number of times in the last decade from the Pacific Ocean.  Larger species including the grey whale have also migrated through the newly formed passage.

Professor Chris Reid, from the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: “It seems for the first time in probably thousands of years a huge area of sea water opened up between Alaska and the west of Greenland, allowing a huge transfer of water and species between the two oceans.

“The implications are huge. The last time there was an incursion of species from the Pacific into the Atlantic was around two to three million years ago.  “Large numbers of species were introduced from the Pacific and made large numbers of local Atlantic species extinct.”


Title: Warming Oceans Cause Largest Movement of Marine Species in Two Million Years
Publication: The Telegraph/UK, June 26th 2011

Author: Richard Gray

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University
Student Researcher: Taylor Falbisaner, Sonoma State University