Saturday, 21 December 2013

New Actors in the Arctic Ecosystem

Dec. 18, 2013 — Biologists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have for the first time shown that amphipods from the warmer Atlantic are now reproducing in Arctic waters to the west of Spitsbergen. This surprising discovery indicates a possible shift of the Arctic zooplankton community, scientists report in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. The primary victims of this "Atlantification" are likely to be marine birds, fish and whales. The reason is that the migrating amphipods measure around one centimetre, and so are smaller than the respective Arctic species; this makes them less nutritious prey.

Amphipods have a preference which made it easy for AWI biologists to recognise these changes. This is because the sea dwellers, which are classed as zooplankton, would appear to like hiding.

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