Tropical plankton invade Norway

Researchers have found radiolaria plankton north of Norway which originated in the tropics, ScienceDaily reported yesterday.
Tropical plankton in the Arctic

For the first time, scientists have identified tropical and subtropical species of marine protozoa living in the Arctic Ocean. Apparently, they traveled thousands of miles on Atlantic currents and ended up above Norway with an unusual — but naturally cyclic — pulse of warm water, not as a direct result of overall warming climate, say the researchers. On the other hand: arctic waters are warming rapidly, and such pulses are predicted to grow as global climate change causes shifts in long-distance currents.

We thought this was pretty interesting. Especially how researchers described that this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

 Oceanographers have previously shown that sometimes pulses of warm water penetrate along the Norwegian coast and into the arctic basin; such pulses have occurred in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s. Further, the authors say that well-dated fossils of foraminifera — protozoans closely related to radiolaria — found on the arctic seafloor suggest that warm-water plankton may have temporarily established themselves at least several times before — around 4200 and 4100 BC, and again around 220, 370 and 1100 AD. “All the evidence is that this isn’t necessarily immediate evidence of global warming of the ocean,” said Anderson. Lead author Kjell Bjørklund, of the University of Oslo Natural History Museum said of the invaders, “This doesn’t happen continuously — but it happens.”

What we also found interesting was that the plankton would have taken five to seven years to get there. Since the plankton only lives for about one month, it reproduced many times during its journey, possibly even evolving along the way to adapt to colder waters.

Could something similar be happening in the Pacific Ocean? It seems quite possible. According to this article, harmful algae blooms are being detected farther north in Alaska than they have before.

Perhaps there is some link between these events and salmon productivity. After all, wild salmon all go to the same area of the North Pacific ocean to feed.

UPDATE: One of our followers posted this video about plankton and we wanted to share it here too. Very cool video footage of microscopic plankton and other creatures!


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