Ocean Warming Has Seafloor Species Headed in the Wrong Direction
Published:09 Sep.2020    Source:Science

As the world warms, many species of plant and animal will have to find new—often cooler—places to live. But things are trickier for sedentary marine creatures like snails, worms, and clams, according to a new study. It finds that in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, many species are spawning earlier in the year, when currents take their larvae southward and into warmer waters—the wrong direction. For some of them, including the sand dollars beloved by beachcombers, this means their range is shrinking.

Earlier spawning is a serious threat. "For species that can't move effectively, it's going to enhance the likelihood that they're going to get really rare and potentially be driven extinct by climate change," says Steve Gaines, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the research. A key question, he says, is whether these species will likely evolve to spawn later or tolerate warmer water. And if they don’t, should biologists try transplanting them to more suitable environments?