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Oceans Likely to Heat up at Seven Times Their Current Rate, New Study Finds

Oceans
Oceans Likely to Heat up at Seven Times Their Current Rate, New Study Finds
A baby humpback whale tail slaps in the Pacific Ocean in front of the West Maui Mountains. share your experiences / Moment / Getty Images

The depths of the oceans are heating up more slowly than the surface and the air, but that will undergo a dramatic shift in the second half of the century, according to a new study. Researchers expect the rate of climate change in the deep parts of the oceans could accelerate to seven times their current rate after 2050, as The Guardian reported.


The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that different parts of the ocean undergo change at different rates as the extra heat from increasing levels of greenhouse gases moved through the vast ocean depths, making it increasingly tricky for marine life to adapt, according to The Guardian.

The researchers saw grim prospects for marine life after looking at a metric called climate velocity, which measures the speed and direction a species shifts as their habitat warms, according to Sky News.

The scientists, led by Isaac Brito-Morales, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Queensland in Australia, used data from 11 different climate models to predict what the rest of the 21st century will look like, as Sky News reported. Brito-Morales and his team looked at the past 50 years of data and projections for future greenhouse gas emissions.

"This allowed us to compare climate velocity in four ocean depth zones — assessing in which zones biodiversity could shift their distribution the most in response to climate change," said Brito-Morales, in a University of Queensland statement.

The researchers looked at future rates of change in three different scenarios, one where emissions start to fall, another where they start to fall by the middle of this century, and a third where emissions continued to rise up to 2100.

The study found "a rapid acceleration of climate change exposure throughout the water column" in the second half of the century, as The Guardian reported.

Professor Jorge García Molinos, a climate ecologist at Hokkaido University's Arctic Research Center in Japan, and a co-author of the study, said to The Guardian, "Our results suggest that deep sea biodiversity is likely to be at greater risk because they are adapted to much more stable thermal environments."

"The acceleration of climate velocity is consistent through all tested greenhouse gas concentration scenarios," Moinos added, as ANI News in India reported.

So far, ocean water surfaces are experiencing climate velocity about twice the rate of the lower regions. Consequently, life in the depths of the ocean has been less affected than, say, coral, which are much closer to the surface of the water.

"However by the end of the century, assuming we have a high-emissions future, there is not only much greater surface warming, but also this warmth will penetrate deeper," said Brito-Morales in a statement. "In waters between a depth of 200 and 1000 meters, our research showed climate velocities accelerated to 11 times the present rate.

"And in an interesting twist, not only is climate velocity moving at different speeds at different depths in the ocean, but also in different directions which poses huge challenges to the ways we design protected areas," he added.

Several problems exist for marine life such as tuna. First, although they live in the depths, the plankton they eat are near the surface, meaning tuna will have to go through changing water to find food. Secondly, fish in the depths of the ocean are accustomed to a highly stable environment. They are extremely vulnerable to any slight changes in ocean temperatures, as The Guardian reported.

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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