How Fish in the World’s Coldest Place Are Reacting to A Warming Climate

Fish have been migrating to cooler water over the last several decades as the ocean warms. But in Antarctica, the coldest place on the planet, polar species have nowhere to go.

Preliminary research by a UC Davis animal scientist shows that some polar fish have been able to acclimate to warm water or to higher levels of carbon dioxide, but not to both.

“They have evolved to live in very cold, stable conditions and they already live in the coldest, most stable ecosystem on Earth,” said Anne Todgham, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science who specializes in how aquatic life copes with changing environments. Todgham studies stress in sea creatures in a wide variety of locations, including the ice-covered continent at the southern tip of the globe.

Oceans absorb about one-third of the CO2 humans release into the atmosphere. That may be good for the air, but it is hard on the health of the sea. Climate change and marine pollution is stressing virtually all aquatic life, but Todgham says polar species may have it the worst.

Photo: Hannes Grobe/AWI/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

To view the Creative Commons license for the image, click here.

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