Rapid adaptation could be sea urchins’ primary weapon against acidification and climate change as the carbon content of the ocean increases. The purple sea urchin, above, is able to pass a trait for higher carbon dioxide tolerance to its offspring.
“What we want to know is, given that this is a process that happens over time, can marine animals adapt? Could evolution come to the rescue?” says postdoctoral researcher Morgan Kelly, from the department of ecology, evolution, and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Due to rising carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, the oceans of the future are projected to absorb more carbon dioxide, leading to acidification of the water. The change in the ocean chemistry is expected to negatively affect the way urchins and other calcifying creatures create and maintain their shells and exoskeletons.
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