Snails don’t jump in acidic oceans

Torch

[©CSIRO Publishing. This article first appeared in The HelixIssue 155, a science magazine for children produced by CSIRO.]

Gibberulus gibberulus gibbosus (Gastropoda: Strombidae). Also known as jumping snails. YES, these snails have colorful eyes. [photo: Sue-Ann Watson]Gibberulus gibberulus gibbosus (Gastropoda: Strombidae). Also known as jumping snails. YES, these snails have colorful eyes. [photo: Sue-Ann Watson]

A sea snail, grazing on algae among the corals, smells a predatory cone shell. Wary of the cone shell’s venomous dart, the snail flicks its foot against the sand and jumps—yes, jumps—away. The snail’s quick escape works, but it may fail by the end of this century as oceans acidify.

Ocean acidification harms sea animals

Since the Industrial Revolution, oceans have been absorbing 25-30% of the CO2 released by fossil fuel burning. When gaseous CO2 dissolves into the oceans, it reacts with water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3) which acidifies the oceans. Ocean acidification harms marine animals like corals and molluscs—snails, oysters, mussels etc.—as…

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