Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/12/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Glass sponges could be on the winning end of climate change

One invertebrate community on the ocean floor seems to be benefiting from climate change and the melting of glacial shelves. The mysterious, beautiful glass sponge has taken root on the ocean floor in the wake of the disintegration of the Larsen A ice shelf in Antarctica disintegrated 20 years ago. Glass sponges were originally believed to have taken long periods to take root, but with the sudden influx of entire communities being discovered, the life form may be one the few to benefit from climate change.

Populations of glass sponges, or Hexactinellida have tripled between 2007 and 2011, allowing them to completely take over the seafloor.

Populations of glass sponges, or Hexactinellida have tripled between 2007 and 2011, allowing them to completely take over the seafloor.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/12/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Glass sponges, Antarctica, Larsen A ice shelf, photosynthesis


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Populations of glass sponges, or Hexactinellida have tripled between 2007 and 2011, allowing them to completely take over the seafloor.

"The shelf broke off, split into tiny pieces and was gone in a couple of weeks," lead researcher Claudio Richter, a biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, says. "Now the benthos, which we believed would take decades or centuries to move and change, is transforming quickly in just a matter of years."

Scientists originally believed that seafloor communities were very poor as animals could only get food when strong currents brought it in, Richter says. The biologist likens the thick ice shelf to a large balcony attached to a house or building, blocking the sun, which gives organisms at the base of the marine food chain energy.

Photo of a typical glass sponge community in Antarctica

Photo of a typical glass sponge community in Antarctica's eastern Weddell Sea


"If you have a balcony that extends really far out, you would have a difficult time growing vegetables beneath it," Richter says.

Warming waters in Antarctica's Weddell Sea in 1995 caused the Larsen A ice shelf to give way. Sunlight bathed the surface waters afterwards, allowing phytoplankton and ice algae, fed by photosynthesis, to grow. This food was then passed down to the seafloor, helping sponges, sea squirts and other animals thrive.

Scientists in 2007 discovered communities of deep-sea invertebrates that are normally found at depths of 3,300 feet or more. Scientists also saw occasional small glass sponges and large populations of fast-growing sea squirts, which dominated the seafloor.

Returning to the area in 2011, Richter and his colleagues and maneuvered their ROV over the original area surveyed in 2007. The seafloor changed dramatically in just four years: Predatory species such as sea stars were scarce in both surveys, but glass sponges had taken over the seafloor. However, the pioneering species of sea squirts had all but disappeared.

Photo of a typical glass sponge community in Antarctica

Photo of a typical glass sponge community in Antarctica's eastern Weddell Sea


"The sponges are now three times more numerous and two times as big as before," Richter said. What's even more astounding, he adds, is that satellite images show the area was only productive (in terms of phytoplankton and algae growth) for two out of the four years between the two surveys.

Previous research previously suggested that hexactinellid species live long, slow lives. Other research suggests the animals have a very slow metabolism, allowing them to live for 10,000 years or more. Recent findings, taken together with other work, suggest that Antarctic glass sponges that have endured arrested growth for decades can undergo booming periods that allow them to quickly colonize new areas.

"It's a complex issue," Richter said. "It's difficult to predict the evolution of how things develop, but for now, the sponges seem to be gaining pace."

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Green

Scientists call upon Pope Francis to take the lead on climate change Watch

Image of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church could change attitudes on an important topic.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Historically, the Catholic Church has been accused of being anti-science. This is a lie. The Catholic Church is pro-truth and in cases where science was not yet established, the Church has demurred or cautioned. Yet in cases where the science is established, the Church ... continue reading


Sunday's global warming march displays everything that's wrong with global warming activism Watch

Image of Displays like this are both absurd and counterproductive. The discussion about global warming needs to move from political rhetoric to one informed by ethics and moral guidance.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This Sunday, thousands of climate activists will march on the streets of New York, in an effort to rekindle due concern over the environment. While the cause appears noble, the entire effort may be off to a doomed start. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This Sunday, ... continue reading


Just in time for Halloween! 'Werewolf' cat enchanting fanciers Watch

Image of The cats' sickly appearance is only skin deep. Aside from the patchy hair that makes them notable, the first few generations of Lykoi cats seem rather healthy thus far.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Gaining in popularity among cat fanciers and breeders, the "Lykoi" cat is most peculiar looking. Many would instantly assume the patchy critter is inflicted with a sort of mange. The "Lykoi" cat, or "werewolf" cat is in fact carefully raised for its unusual ... continue reading


Antarctic sea ice reaches record levels and why that's bad Watch

Image of Antarctic sea ice continues to expand by about 1.5 percent coverage every year. This trend has continued since 1979 and it thought to be driven by global warming.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Research ships and other vessels traveling through Antarctic waters will have to be very careful this year because Antarctic ice has expanded rapidly, increasing the hazard to ships. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An incredible quantity of sea ice has formed ... continue reading


Terrifying new discovery: Spinosaurus dinosaur was the largest predator ever to walk the Earth Watch

Image of The monster's most distinctive feature was a row of spines that created an enormous sail down the middle of its back. Scientists think it was used for display purposes rather than to trap heat or store fat.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Described as a cross between a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a crocodile and a whale, the Spinosaurus was the largest predator ever to walk the Earth . or swim in its rivers. A recent discovery, the fierce beast is the first dinosaur known to have been adapted to an ... continue reading


VIDEO: Amazing video catches volcanic eruption along with sonic boom Watch

Image of Mount Tavurvur is known as a rather active volcano, one that caused many deaths and covered a nearby town in ash in 1994.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Mount Tavurvur, a volcano in Papua New Guinea, erupted late last month on August 29, throwing ash high into the air and causing a shock wave and resultant sonic boom. Phil McNamara caught the rare sight while boating near the New Guinea coast. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Sun spits STORM OF FIRE at Earth, will the northern lights be visible? Watch

Image of The Sun has an 11-year cycle of activity and is presently at its maximum for the current cycle.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A powerful solar storm approaching Earth should not be a direct hit, removing much cause for alarm. On Wednesday, the Sun spewed an X1.6 class solar flare aimed right at Earth, but the bulk of the resulting coronal mass ejection appears on track to miss Earth, passing ... continue reading


Deforestation of the Amazon continues at an alarming rate despite Brazil's best policies Watch

Image of Illegal logging has become an incredibly large part of the deforestation problem.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Brazilian government has released figures which reveal that destruction of the world's largest rainforest accelerated last year by 29%, totally reversing gains made since 2009. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The figures were compiled from satellite data ... continue reading


Is it getting hot in here? Greenhouse gas levels hit historic highs Watch

Image of A new study has revealed that the level of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere have hit record highs, and suggest that the Earth is losing its ability to disperse the heat retaining gases.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Atmospheric temperatures have climbed much faster than scientists have expected and the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high last years according to new research published by the U.N.'s agency on meteorology. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Where are the wildfires? Global warming theory says California should be in flames... Watch

Image of California ought to be in flames, but without late-summer thunderstorms to spark fires, the state simply remains dry.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Washington Times recently reported that a mild fire season in the Western US is disrupting the global warming narrative --a sort of inconvenient truth for climate change proponents. The article is certainly correct, the fire season is well below average, so far, ... continue reading


All Green News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49
35 Someone may ask: How are dead people raised, and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 56:10-12, 13-14
10 In God whose word I praise, in Yahweh whose word I ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 8:4-15
4 With a large crowd gathering and people from every ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 20th, 2014 Image

Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions
September 20: Feastday: September 20 The evangelization of Korea began ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter