Friday, February 18, 2011

CUBE reports 17/02/2011 (Part 2/3)

Sure all of these are interesting trivia facts, but now the real science comes in, the unique adaptations found in the Antarctica. Meet the Ice fish.
The Antarctic Ice fish is perhaps the most unique vertebrate in the planet because of one tiny detail:
It has no red blood cells. What? No red blood cells, then how does it transport oxygen if there is no haemoglobin, how is that of any advantage to the animal?
Well, Professor Lloyd Peck explains that in the Antarctic, the oxygen is more soluble because of the lower water temperatures and thus the oxygen can be easily transported by plasma. In that way there is less metabolic pressure to circulate blood around the body and so the Ice fish navigates happily in the Antarctica's frigid swimming pool. Another important adaptation in most antarctic fish is having antifreeze, which is self-explanatory really.
Another adaptati
on can be seen in our dear sea spiders: Gigantism
Abnormally big animals flourish in these areas due to the low temperatures and oxygen availability. For instance the some Sea Spong
es are ridiculously big in the Antarctic. The previously mentioned Sea spiders can have 8,10 or even 12 legs, which does not happen in other species of the same taxa

Another unique adaptation: Heat shock, or more correctly, the absence of heat shock. Yes it is true, fish in the Antarctica do not have heat shock response which can only be found in molluscs when heated up to 10ÂșC

So in this first part of Peck's lecture, it is possible to see the vast amount of diversity and uniqueness that can be found in this regularly overlooked ecosystem, pretty impressive no doubt.
In the second part of Peck's talk, he discussed the climate change predictions, mostly based on a current scientific paper that he conducted.
It seems that the fastest change due to climate occurs in the poles, thus being the regions with highest impact of global warming and such. It is then, the fastest changing environment in the planet!
The big question is then: How can organisms respond to this change?
A series of very colourful and clear graphs were shown which we will not get into much detail as this "little" summary is getting extensive enough as it is, but I'm sure that hopefully when the paper is published, those graphs will be found online and perhaps on text books.
Basically, small individuals survive to higher temperatures than bigger individuals also species with higher activity rates survive at higher temperatures than lower activity species, which causes a problem for most Antarctic animals as they are both big and rather slow.
Studies on the different rates of warming versus Temperature tolerance show that the slower the temperature increase, the lower the temperature the animals survives in. Confusing much? Perhaps, but to be honest I couldn't get my head around it too well and before I knew it we
were off to another slide.

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