Ocean Acidification and Sad Experiments

This week the biol 326 class set up an experiment to study the effects of ocean acidification on snail behaviour.  I was super excited about this experiment because we were using black turban sails (Tegula funebralis), which just so happen to be my favourite snail.  They’re shells are mostly jet black with a brown apex, that looks like it is swirled with mother of pearl.  Here is a handful of our snails, that are covered in little barnacles.  They’re so pretty.

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We used these snails to study ocean acidification by putting half of them in regular ocean water, and the other half in water with low pH to mimic what our oceans will look like in the future with ocean acidification.  In our experiment this week, we wanted to look specifically at how acidification will change the snail’s ability to sense when predators are around.  To do this, we split both of the sets of snails up further and put them in water with different types of chemical cues, that either other snails or their sea star predators would send to them in the ocean (the snails were probably pretty stressed out and scared, but its halloween this weekend so we can pretend we were just trying to get them into the halloween spirit).

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We then measured what we thought would be their response to predators by putting them through a bunch of tests to make them think they were being attacked, to see which ones responded the most.  This week, our results showed us absolutely nothing, but thats okay because it just means theres room for improvement.

Sometimes, science gives you your expected results and its exciting and happy, but other times you don’t get very much out of your experiment and its a bit sad.  This was one of those weeks.  So instead of talking about cool things we learned in our experiment, heres some cool things similar to our experiment that other people found out:

  • increasing ocean acidification can cause a variety of animals to stop detecting predators that they can usually detect
  • it can even cause some animals to mix up which animals are their predators and which aren’t
  • it causes some animals to get paranoid and do things they would normally do when predators are around, even when they’re not around, or do them faster then they normally would

While scientists don’t know exactly why these things are happening, or how much they’re going to have an effect on the ocean ecosystem, its pretty clear that ocean acidification is going to cause a lot of changes to our oceans.

For more information on ocean acidification: a short video by Rob Stewart (definitely go watch his other documentaries as well!)

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