An international study published this week in the journal Global Change Biology suggests that increased ocean acidity is affecting the size and weight of shellfish and their skeletons, afflicting a wide variety of marine species.
According to Reuters, it has become increasingly difficult for clams, sea urchins and other shellfish to grow their shells, and the trend is likely to be felt most in polar regions.
Ocean acidification, which comes partially from human emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels that dissolves into acid, makes it harder for creatures to extract calcium carbonate, which forms their skeletons and shells.
According to the Mother Nature Network, the research team tested four types of shell-building marine animals — clams, sea snails, lampshells and sea urchins — living in 12 different environments from the tropics to the poles. In all of the shellfish tested, they found that as the availability of calcium carbonate decreases, skeletons become lighter and account for a smaller percentage of an animal's overall weight.
Professor Lloyd Peck of the BAS told Reuters TV, "Where it gets colder and the calcium carbonate is harder to get out of the seawater the animals have thinner skeletons."
The researchers said these results show that changing ocean acidity in the Arctic and Antarctic may foreshadow similar issues elsewhere. The experiences in the Arctic and Antarctic may also show if some species are able to adapt to the changes in time to survive.
In a statement Peck said, "Evolution has allowed shellfish to exist in these areas and, given enough time and a slow enough rate of change, evolution may again help these animals survive in our acidifying oceans."
More on the plight of the shellfish can be seen in this video: