Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Adorable penguins replaced by jellyfish?

The Census on Antarctic Marine Life (CAML), part of the Census on Marine Life (COML), is reporting that Antarctic krill populations are being "decimated" due to climate change. And unfortunately it looks like jellyfish are poised to take over as penguins and other krill predators decline. Jellyfish can better exploit the copepods that are taking over for krill. Huw Griffiths, a participant in CAML, says that he's already seeing jellyfish in the Southern Ocean. Check out a gallery of the amazing animals CAML discovered in the Antarctic.

Not to disrespect jellyfish, which are pretty interesting in their own right, but it would be a shame to lose this unique ecosystem. The CAML has identified many new species that we know barely anything about. So it's not just penguins that might suffer when the Antarctic environment changes. We could be losing out on species that look like aliens from another planet, species that produce compounds that could treat human beings, species whose determined waddling is never anything less than delightful. And in return we'd just get jellyfish.


Daniel Bassett said...

This is a real worry. The marine Antarctic ecosystem is really fragile and is entirely based off krill at its most basic level. Without krill it won't just be penguins but whales, fish etc etc.

Claire said...

What's even worse is that interest in commercial fishing for krill is growing even though krill populations seem to be on the decline.